Train operator ScotRail has won praise for its forward-thinking cut-price bike hire scheme which allows cyclists to enjoy scenic A-to-B journeys across the Highlands.
ScotRail was 'Highly Commended' in the Innovation category of the ATOC National Cycle Rail Awards for its bike scheme, which is believed to be the only UK cycle-rail scheme where local shops organise the return of hire bikes, meaning cyclists no longer have to pedal back to their starting points.
Judges singled ScotRail out for praise for finding 'innovative ways' to connect Oban, Inverness and Fort William, which are difficult to link by rail, and for helping promote Highland trails, such as the 73-mile off-road Great Glen Way between Fort William and Inverness.
ScotRail was also praised for forging excellent relationships with local businesses, particularly Ticket to Ride in Inverness and Nevis Cycles shops in Oban and Fort William.
Ticket to Ride owner Lindsay Mackinnon enthused: “We're committed to bringing visitors to the Highlands to enjoy some of the best cycle touring in Europe. We're happy that ATOC have recognised our joint efforts with
ScotRail and Nevis Cycles to encourage more of those visitors to use the train to get here and get home again at the end of their visit."
Nevis Cycles' Ben Thompson added: “We're delighted to work with ScotRail to encourage car-free active holidays in the Highlands.
“Customers being able to link Oban, Fort William and Inverness by bike is great for local businesses like ours. We have also had lots of positive feedback from hoteliers and guest houses on route showing the benefits have spread even further into the local economy."
ScotRail MD Steve Montgomery said: “The success of the Highlands bike hire scheme has led to this national recognition.
“The project supports our aim of being much more than a railway operator – by connecting communities, safeguarding Scotland’s environment, getting more people to use trains, and boosting Scottish business.”
Transport Minister Keith Brown added: “Active and sustainable transport modes like cycling and the train go hand-in-hand to help us all achieve Scotland’s ambitious climate change targets and improve public health.
“The Scottish Government is committed to promoting both these forms of transport and I was delighted to see the success of this innovative scheme from ScotRail.
“I congratulate ScotRail on this award, recognising a fantastic scheme which allows more integration between cycling and rail and makes both more attractive and more accessible.”