scotland (4K)
The Friends of the Far North Line
Cairdean Na Loine Tuath
the campaign group for rail north of Inverness - lobbying for improved services for the local user, tourist and freight operator

'OV-fiets' - Dutch Train Bike Hire

Contributed by FoFNL member JD Stewart Campbell

In December 2006, Sandra, Fiona our daughter and I took the tram from Fiona's flat to Amsterdam Central Station where we caught the train to Baarn. Fiona bought the tickets for all of us using her 40% discount 'Season Ticket' swipe card. We met Allan there and had lunch at the excellent restaurant beside the Station. It was a mild sunny day and we returned to the Station where Fiona swiped her card again and we picked up new, single speed, bikes, with coaster brake and a 'bottle' dynamo for back and front lights. These were ideal for the job, where the highest 'hill' was a kerb. The cost was 2.75 Euros each for 20 hours. (This allows commuters to pick up a bike on their way home and return it next morning.)

We followed a leisurely route through fields, forests and an area of dunes. There was a 'mushroom' at every intersection of the track or road, clearly indicating the distance to the next village or town. We could safely ride two abreast and rarely saw a car. It was a most enjoyable and sociable ride. We met several other cyclists, and walkers. At the right moment we came on an Inn where we enjoyed gluwein and savoury snacks, before cycling back in the dark to the station, dropping off the bikes (with little formality-the card covers insurance etc) and catching the train back to the city.

That use for a pleasant day out illustrates the ease with which the new Dutch 'public transport bicycles' can be used.

OV-fiets are rental bikes which are part of the Dutch public transport system. They can cover the journey from home to the station and from the station to work. They are fast to pick up and drop off. They are available at 100 railway stations at present. The number of stations, and other transport locations, is increasing rapidly.

The facility is targeted at commuters rather than tourists, and is accessed by an enabled Netherlands Railway annual season card (discount, concession, student etc.) or an OV-fiets membership card. It only takes a minute to collect the bike since all the relevant information is computerised via the card and bar code on the bike. Payment is by monthly direct debit. There is an annual subscription fee of 9.5 Euros (£6)

This service is provided jointly by ProRail ('Railtrack'), NS ('ScotRail), Fietersbond ('CTC') and several public authorities (equivalent to Hitrans, Cycling Scotland etc)

How about starting here with Nairn, Aviemore, Inverness, Dingwall, Wick and Thurso?

Bikes on Dutch Trains.

Folding bikes are carried on all Dutch trains free of charge if they are completely folded. A special bag is not required.

Other bicycles are carried during non-peak hours, at an extra charge of 6 Euros per day. During July and August, bikes can be carried during rush hour as well. Bikes must be put in the special area reserved for them.