BIKE thefts from outside Swindon railway station have jumped five-fold in the past three years, new figures reveal.

Campaigners say while bike theft might seem like a minor offence, the loss of the bike can mean the loss of a vital link in someone’s journey to work or school.

Figures obtained from British Transport Police by the BBC Shared Data Unit showed bike thefts at or near Wiltshire railway stations have rocketed over recent years.

The number of thefts from outside Swindon station increased five-fold between 2016 and 2019, from three in 2016/17 to 16 last year.

At Trowbridge station, bike thefts rose from four in 2016/17 to 16 in 2018/19. Chippenham saw the smallest increase in reports of station bike thefts, from two to five.

Sgt Charlotte Collins of the BTP urged cyclists to fix their bike with at least one heavy-duty D-lock.

The police officer said the number of bike thefts had remained comparatively steady over the five years she had been on the force: “There’s always an increase in bike crime around the summer. It’s a very seasonal thing, as there are more people riding their bikes.”

But she warned bike thieves: “We will catch you. We investigate thefts as far as we can and we’re increasing our CCTV presence at all of our stations.”

Sam Jones, senior campaigns officer at Cycling UK, said: “Bicycle theft might seem a relatively minor offence – and unfortunately is sometimes treated as such by some police forces – but it is most definitely not. It’s a low risk, high reward crime, with stolen bikes easily changing hands for hundreds or even thousands of pounds on the internet.

“The majority of these bicycles stolen are not just playthings, but are undoubtedly being used as a vital link in someone’s journey to work or school.”

Those comments were echoed by Becky Cox of the Swindon Cycle Campaign.

“Bike hire should be available at each station so that people can make onward journeys not using their own cycle,” she said.

“To really promote rail journeys GWR need to take seriously the need to help people travel to and from stations by bike, because it is much more economical and sustainable than driving to a station and paying to park.”

GWR disputed the BBC figures, saying their own numbers - also obtained from BTP - suggested there had been only four bike thefts from outside Swindon station last year.

Arguing Swindon station was covered by CCTV and well-lit, spokesman James Davis said: "While the number of thefts is low we will continue to work with the BTP to maintain the security of our station environments; and encourage cyclists to follow their advice in helping to deter crime by investing in good quality D locks and registering their bike.”