Thameslink, Luton Council and Sustrans, the charity promoting cycling and walking, have helped around 30 key NHS workers ‘get on their bikes’ to travel to work.
They all work at Bedfordshire hospitals and are benefitting from a scheme to renovate abandoned bikes.
Thameslink and Luton Council both picked out the machines in best condition from their stocks of abandoned bikes. The mechanics at the council’s long-standing recycling scheme inspected and overhauled the bikes as necessary to ensure they were in safe, roadworthy order.
When the council then offered half of the bikes to Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, they were snapped up quickly by staff. Sustrans, working with Bedford Borough Council, arranged the giveaway of the other half to Bedford Hospital staff.
Responding to the strong demand, Thameslink has given a further ten bikes to the Luton recycling team. In need of rather more restoration work, these will be offered to staff at Biggleswade Hospital when they are ready for the road. Demand has been so high that Thameslink has already run out of bikes in good enough condition for the scheme.
Thameslink collects a steady stream of bikes abandoned at stations, many in surprisingly good condition, and normally sells those that are unclaimed and too good to scrap at periodic auctions, with proceeds going to local charities. However, restrictions because of Coronavirus (COVID-19) are preventing this, so the train operator was only too please to get involved in this scheme to help the NHS.
One hospital worker who received a bike said: “I had been struggling to get to work since lockdown started because buses don’t run early or late enough, but this bike will make so much difference.”
Another wrote a letter to: “… express my gratitude from the bottom of my heart. It isn’t the value of these gifts so much as the concern shown by you that motivates us to do our job well, especially in this crisis.”
Tom Moran, managing director of Thameslink and Great Northern, said: “It’s fantastic working with our partners to support Bedfordshire hospital staff at this challenging time. As key workers ourselves, we’re proud to be supporting NHS staff in the communities we serve.
“At a time of great national challenge, we are proud to help keep Britain moving by supporting everyone who still needs to travel by rail, and to play our part in National Bike Week (6-14 June). Now, more than ever, is a time when we all need good neighbours, to stay connected, and help each other out.”
Cllr Paul Castleman, Luton Council’s portfolio holder responsible for transport, said: “We continue to be extremely grateful to the dedicated NHS staff undertaking vital work at this difficult time and are pleased to see how much the bikes are benefiting them on their daily journeys to and from work, whilst allowing them to maintain social distancing.
“Our recycling scheme team of mechanics have worked diligently over the past few weeks to refurbish and restore the bikes to a safe and roadworthy condition, ready to be used by our hard-working key workers. It has been extremely rewarding working with GTR to deliver this project and being able to give something back to hospital staff who have done – and continue to do – so much for us.”
Chloe Crowther, Sustrans Active Travel Officer in Bedford, said: “Lots of people may be looking at alternative ways to travel at the moment and this scheme is helping those that have the most need to travel.
“It was wonderful to see how appreciative the staff at Bedford hospital were when receiving their bikes. I’m so grateful to our key workers for what they do, they are all heroes.
“I’m particularly grateful to GTR, Luton Council and Bedford Council for making this possible.”