Estonian passenger train operator Elron has announced updates to the regulations for the use of its services. However, the company has already received a considerable amount of negative feedback on social media from cyclists, who believe the changes will have a negative impact on those traveling with bikes. In response, Elron says its rules regarding bicycles will remain as they were before.
Elron's new rules for passengers traveling on its trains, which are set to come into force next week, include the availability of ten spaces assigned for the storage of bicycles on board. Four of these will be sold to customers in advance, when they buy their travel tickets online.
On social media however, a number of cyclists have already complained that the new rules will require them to make way for passengers with prams or wheelchairs. They also point out, that under the new regulations, when trains are busy, conductors will have the right to refuse those traveling with bicycles to board.
However, Kristo Mäe, Elron's head of communications, told ERR that the same point has in fact already been part of its passenger regulations since mid-May 2021.
Mäe added, that the new regulations include no major changes in the parts concerning passengers traveling with bicycles.
"In section C, priority is given to people with special needs, such as wheelchair users and passengers with pushchairs. There are two wheelchair spaces on each train," Mäe said, adding that by pre-purchasing a bicycle ticket on Elron's website, passengers are able reserve a space for their own bike.
"(The bicycle) seats, which have been sold in advance are marked and can only be used by the ticket holder. If there are more than ten bikes, a customer service representative will try to find a solution for the passenger. However, if the train is completely full and there is no room for a bike, then the train is simply full. You will have to get the next train," Mäe said.
According to Mäe, starting late next year, when 10 new trains produced by the Škoda Group begin operating, the number of seats available will increase in any case.
One notable development in the regulations is, that, if space on board, scooters will be allowed to be folded up and placed in special pouches on the luggage, or folded up under seats in the cabin so as not to disturb other passengers.
The new regulations also specify certain activities, which will be prohibited on board. Heating or boiling foods will, from now on, be forbidden on Elron trains, as will creating a fire with an open flame.
Certain personal hygiene procedures will also no longer be allowed. Mäe explained, that the reason for this, is that incidents have occurred in which passengers have used train toilets to either dye their hair or shave.
"This is, first of all, unhygienic, second, damaging to Elron's assets and, third, deeply inconsiderate toward fellow passengers," Mäe said.
The new rules also forbid the placing of hand luggage on seats in ways that prevent other passengers from sitting down, or obstruct them when moving around on the train.
"If there are passengers standing upright without a seat in sight, then, without question, hand luggage must be lifted off the (otherwise vacant) seat," said Mäe, adding that the practice of placing baggage on nearby seats and causing fellow passengers to have to stand during train journeys has become increasingly common place.
While under the previous regulations, pets were only allowed to travel in specific sections on trains they will now also be permitted in additional areas.
According to Elron, the updated rules for passengers using its services are being introduced to take into consideration user needs as well as inconsistencies in the current regulations, which have come to light in practice.
Editor: Michael Cole