A CYCLIST who had his bike stolen from Haslemere station’s new cycle hub was shocked to discover evidence from CCTV film covering the area could not be viewed by either British Transport Police or South West Trains.
Ashley Smith blasted the CCTV system as “totally useless” claiming bikes were “totally unprotected while in the cycle hub”.
The bike shed opened last summer to much acclaim as part of a major revamp to the railway station forecourt, with its surveillance cameras boasting facial-recognition technology.
But it is unclear how long CCTV images have not been available for viewing – British Transport Police and SWT said the cameras are working, although SWT had difficulty with downloading the images and sending them on to BTP.
A resolution was due “this week” for BTP to get a direct link to the cameras without waiting for SWT to pass the images over.
The cycle hub was used by Mr Smith when he cycled there for the first time from his home in Easebourne in November.
The bike was stolen in matter of hours. Previously he lived in Haslemere and regularly chained his bike to the racks on the platforms, in “full view of station staff”, and had never had a bike stolen.
It later emerged another bike was stolen on the same day, and at least one other since the bike shed opened had been pinched.
But since the theft of Mr Smith’s bike, BTP said there had been no other reported thefts either from the hub or the other racks at the station.
Mr Smith, a freelance TV producer, said: “I thought the cycle hub would be an improvement for cycle owners who could confidently leave their bikes there.”
He said he was “shocked” to learn transport police and SWT seemed to have had no consultation regarding the positioning of the cycle hub and the security of bikes within it.
Haslemere county councillor Nikki Barton told The Herald she had alerted SWT the CCTV was not working in September. During the early planning stages with SWT, she had raised concerns about the location of the new bike hub as in her view, it should have been located as close as possible to the station entrance.
Mrs Barton, an avid cyclist, said: “I contacted SWT in September to alert them that the security cameras were not working following the theft of a valuable bike from the hub.
“Clearly the issue was not addressed then which is frustrating given further recent thefts have occurred.
“I am very concerned about the issue of bike security. For those living within several miles of the station the bike-train commuting combination is time and cost efficient, environmentally friendly and good for health and fitness.
“Fundamental however is the cyclist has peace of mind when parking their bike at the station, that it is safe and secure.”
But despite her concerns over the hub’s location priority was given instead to the “premier car parking spaces” which generate maximum income for SWT.
She said: “Given the pressing need to encourage more cycling, to reduce congestion and air pollution, this was disappointing.
“That said, the new hub is a positive step, providing 150 lit, covered cycle parking spaces”.
The hub, a large steel and glass cycle garage is tucked away to the far left of the forecourt beyond the car parking area for daily ticket holders and provides covered racks for 190 bikes, a train time information board, bike pump and repair stand and a CCTV system, which is a separate system to that covering the rest of the station.
The older system can be accessed by all SWT staff and can be remotely viewed and downloaded by BTP at Southampton.
Neither station staff or BTP had access to the cycle hub system and it could not be remotely viewed at the time of the thefts. It is unclear whether the surveillance camera was working on the day in question – November 24 – but footage is overwritten after a certain period of time.
Although he has given up hope of ever having his bike returned, Mr Smith embarked on months of emails and letters to both SWT and BTP to try to discover why there was no CCTV evidence from the cycle hub.
He also asked why SWT did not consult with police before constructing the hub, and how long the CCTV was out of operation, plus how many bikes had been stolen from the location.
To date he has not even had the “courtesy of a single reply” from SWT customer services, and although a BTP officer replied to Mr Smith’s emails, he was unable to get a definitive answer to many of his questions for weeks.
Mr Smith told The Herald: “In my opinion the new bike shed has been built in a most insecure location, far away from the eyes of staff and passengers. However, it was reassuring the entrance is covered by a large CCTV camera.
“You can imagine how devastated I was when after many weeks of asking what the camera had witnessed of my bike theft, it turned out that neither the police nor SWT could access the images on the camera. In short it was totally useless.
Mr Smith had suggested a warning sign the CCTV was not working but was told to place a notice informing offenders the CCTV was not downloadable would be an “invitation to carry out their intentions whether in the hub or elsewhere on the station”.
An SWT spokesman told The Herald rail community officers, who are SWT employees, patrol cycle hubs, checking bikes are secure and hold a number of safety events and advice sessions.
They carry out cycle surgeries at different locations in partnership with BTP where bikes are marked with security tags to ensure they can return any stolen bikes back to their rightful owner. One is being planned for Haslemere, he said.
In 2016, eight new cycle hubs were built across the SWT network.