They have been marketed as the ideal Christmas present to beat the transport strikes and high fuel prices but from today riders of electric scooters will be banned from carrying them on two of the country’s big train operators.
TransPennine Express, which operates in the north of England, and Avanti West Coast, which runs services on the west coast main line, both blamed the fire risk posed by the vehicles’ lithium-ion batteries, which can rupture without warning, emitting toxic smoke.
It brings to ten the number of train operators and transport authorities that refuse to carry privately owned e-scooters, which are unregulated in Britain. It is illegal to ride them on public roads and the latest move is likely to further undermine their appeal to commuters.
East Midlands Railway imposed a ban on December 19 after Northern, the second-largest operator in the UK, did so on December 1. Those bans followed those of LNER, Lumo, Grand Central and Transport for Wales, as well as restrictions in place for the past year on services run by Transport for London and the Tyne and Wear Metro. Anyone who flouts TfL’s rules faces a fine of up to £1,000. Gatwick Express, Great Western Railway, Southeastern and Thameslink still permit them.
Iain Peacock, head of safety and security at TransPennine Express, said the operator was also banning hoverboards and e-skateboards. “Most of these devices are not approved for use in the UK and the batteries are often unregulated,” he said.
Mobility scooters, electric wheelchairs and e-bikes, which are built to higher standards, will be exempt from the ruling.
More than a million privately owned e-scooters are used illegally, and the government is coming under pressure to take action because of increasing casualties on the roads.
Police chiefs appealed to the public not to buy them as Christmas presents and warned that they were likely to be confiscated if the riders were caught.
However, some forces have been unable or unwilling to seize enough of the vehicles to act as a deterrent.
The Metropolitan Police confiscated 4,000 scooters last year but only 1,100 this year after a change in policy was introduced in November 2021.
The serious consequences emerged in a coroner’s report into the death of Fatima Abukar, a 14-year-old girl who suffered catastrophic head injuries when riding an e-scooter at a speed of not less than 11mph. She was not wearing any safety equipment when she fell beneath the wheels of a minibus. The coroner pointed out that the rate of deaths on the road had doubled in the course of a year as the rate of enforcement dwindled, and called for action to prevent future deaths.