Couple of rail-related stories about today. The first concerns a ban on e-scooters being introduced by South Western Railway across its stations and trains from Thursday, June 1st.
The new rule, which will follow similar bans at other train operators, has been introduced as e-scooters pose a fire risk due to the potential of their lithium-ion batteries overheating.
While the chances of a fire are small, there have been recent incidents of e-scooters catching fire on other forms of public transport.In addition to the ban of e-scooters, SWR has confirmed that customers will not be permitted to charge the devices at their stations or on their trains, and that they will not be accepted as lost property.
The ban also covers e-unicycles, e-skateboards and hoverboards. Electric wheelchairs and e-bikes are exempt from the ban*, as are mobility scooters for those with accessibility needs. Customers are advised to check with staff if they are unsure.
Jane Lupson, SWR’s Head of Safety, said:“Reports of incidents involving e-scooters catching fire on National Rail services or infrastructure are increasing and the potential risk that they pose is not acceptable to our customers and colleagues.“After some consideration, and in line with other partners in the rail industry, we will be banning e-scooters on our trains and at our stations from Thursday 1 June.“
We understand that these devices are popular, but the safety of our customers and staff is our number one priority, so until greater regulation and testing can be brought in to ensure the safety of those travelling on trains, e-scooters will remain banned.”
Meanwhile, Metro Mayor Dan Norris has reacted with anger to reports of ministers potentially pulling the plug on free Wi-Fi on trains as part of a cost-cutting drive.
Most operators currently offer a free wi-fi connection as standard.
However, the Department for Transport has now decided wi-fi is “low priority” for passengers and that train operators need to “justify the business case for it”.
Mr Norris blasted the “bizarre” move which would make rail “less attractive” at a time when his West of England Mayoral Combined Authority is trying to get more passengers to use the trains.
He pointed to his multi-million-pound package of rail improvements including more frequent services from Keynsham, Yate and other West of England stations to Bristol starting this week thanks to a £7 million-plus investment from the Mayoral Combined Authority.
Calling the cut a “short-termist” move which will prove a “false economy” down the line, he said: “This is a truly bizarre move, and is the very definition of a false economy. Because what do people do on trains? They get on their phone or laptops when they’re travelling. They expect to be connected. If that option is taken away, they might think they may as well use their car – with all that means for the West of England, and our efforts to hit our ambitious net-zero targets. While my West of England Mayoral Combined Authority is investing millions to improve our railways for residents, we are being derailed in these efforts by short-termist ministers. It once again confirms that the Government’s only vision when it comes to our trains is managed decline. ”