Cycling

Crossing Europe On Trains, Ferries… And A Bike Called Reggie: Part Two

A heavy-duty bit of research has gone into this post. I hope someone finds it useful…


Not so much about the ferries this time (if you want detailed information about taking your bicycle on a ferry there’s some useful advice here), it’s just the trains. If you read part one of this mini-series of posts you will remember that back in 2015 when I returned from Nordkapp I was able to take a series of trains and ferries all the way home. It was easy; no fuss, no bother, no prior reservation required. Yet one of my local train companies here in the north of England has, from today, introduced a policy of not allowing bicycles on their trains unless they have been booked on the train 24 hours in advance. For many spontaneous journeys, that can be a real problem. Even for daily commuting cyclists who take the train as part of their journey to work it is a potential issue if they can never guarantee to be on a specific train. And what happens if the train you want to take already has three bicycles booked onto it? That company is Trans Pennine Express. What about the other companies?

Here’s a summary:

Operator Do I need to book my bicycle in advance?
Abellio ScotRail For some journeys.
Arriva Rail London No information on website.
Arriva Trains Wales Reservation strongly recommended. 2 bikes per train.
c2c No but some restrictions at peak periods.
Caledonian Sleeper Not essential but recommended, 3 per train.
Chiltern Railways No but some restrictions at peak periods Monday to Friday.
CrossCountry No but 2 spaces per train for reserved bikes, 1 for an unreserved bike.
East Midlands Trains Only for some services but recommended for all; 2 bikes per train.
Eurostar Yes, as ‘registered luggage’.
Grand Central Reservation not possible, 3 bikes per train.
Great Western Railway No but recommended and obligatory for high speed trains. No bikes on many services at peak periods.
Greater Anglia Yes from London to Norwich and there are peak-time restrictions. On local services, no.
Heathrow Express No but peak-time restrictions apply.
Hull Trains No information on website.
Merseyrail No but it’s recommended to travel with a bike off-peak.
Northern No. 2 bikes per train.
South Western Railway Yes when travelling from Waterloo to Salisbury/Exeter/Bristol. On other trains it’s not possible – first come, first served – but there are restrictions at peak periods.
Southeastern No but you can only travel during off-peak times with a bike.
Southern / Thameslink and Great Northern Southern: No but restrictions apply during peak periods (although they are flexible on less crowded journeys).

Thameslink: No but peak-time restrictions apply

Great Northern: No but peak-time restrictions apply

TfL Rail No but peak-time restrictions apply
TransPennine Express Yes, 24 hours in advance. 3 bikes per train.
Virgin Trains East Coast Yes, but reservations can be made up to 10 minutes before travel. 5 (sometimes 3) bikes per train.
Virgin Trains West Coast Yes, but reservations can be made up to 10 minutes before travel. 4 bikes per train.
West Midlands Trains Perhaps(!)

So, apart from Eurostar (which, admittedly, has more issues to deal with as it crosses international borders), Trans Pennine Trains – the train company that I use most often when travelling with my bicycle –  is the only train company in the country that mandates a reservation 24 hours in advance. Ironically, it is my other local train company – Northern Trains – that seems to have the most liberated attitude to taking your bike on a train…

Here’s the detail of what all the train companies say on their websites:

Abellio ScotRail

“We’re developing a seamlessly integrated cycle and rail network. It’s our contribution to the Scottish Government vision of 10% of everyday journeys by bike by 2020.

We’ve installed more cycle parking at our stations, so it’s easier to leave your bike securely before catching the train. Or you can take your bike with you. We take bikes free on all our trains, but for some journeys you’ll need to reserve a space in advance.

There are plenty of reasons to leave the car at home and take the bike instead – keep fit, have fun, and do your bit for the environment. Combining a bike ride with train travel is a brilliant way to see the country – or just to get about town.”

Arriva Rail London

No mention of either ‘bicycle’ or ‘cycling’ on their website.

Arriva Trains Wales

“If you are travelling with a bike, please note that we can normally only allow two per train.

But we do ask you to bear in mind:

  • Our trains have limited capacity to carry bikes, but we aim to make things as easy as we can for you
  • On some Valleys and Cardiff local routes bicycles cannot be taken on trains during peak hours (see our Cycling by Train leaflet below).
  • It is strongly recommended that you make your reservation as far in advance as possible (at least 24 hours in advance) and reserve a cycle space at the time of purchasing your ticket. Reservations for bikes are free, please call 03333 211 202 for more information and to make a booking.
  • On other services, no reservation is needed. On these services, space is allocated on a first come, first served basis.
  • Carriage of bicycles is always at the discretion of train staff, even if you have a reservation.
  • Unaccompanied cycles cannot be carried on any services.
  • Motorcycles cannot be carried on any services.
  • During periods of engineering work, you won’t be able to take your bike on replacement bus services.

Where the Bike Iconsymbol is displayed please use these doors to board and place your bike in the designated area.

Fold down seating areas are for the comfort and safety of:

  1. Wheelchair users
  2. Parents with young children in pushchairs, and
  3. The storage of bikes.
     

Please help us keep aisles and doors clear by offering fold down seats to these passengers.”

c2c

“Where space is available, and it is safe to do so, you are welcome to bring bicycles on our trains. We just ask you to store them sensibly for the consideration of other passengers. However, we are not able to accept cycles, except folding cycles, at our busiest times.

Folding Cycles

Fully folding cycles can be carried at any time. Passengers may be asked to fold their bicycle when going through the ticket barriers.

Folding cycles should be transported in a protective carrying case.

Policy for carrying cycles on c2c trains:

  • Cycles are not permitted on weekday services arriving in London Fenchurch Street between 07:14 and 09:30, or leaving London Fenchurch Street between 16:30 and 18:35
  • If you plan to travel with 3 or more cyclists please contact us on 03457 444 422 (option 6) where we can advise you further
  • Tandems and tricycles are not permitted
  • During engineering work, cycles cannot be accommodated on c2c replacement bus services
  • Motorcycles are not permitted on any service
  • Cycles are carried at owners risk (see National Rail Conditions of Travel) or for further information visit www.nationalrail.co.uk
  • Cycles must be carried in the designated area on the train and must not obstruct doors and aisles
  • Reservations are not required on c2c trains but may be required on some other operators
  • Please don’t lock your cycle to any part of the train. You are also reminded not to leave your cycle unattended at any time during your journey”

Caledonian Sleeper

“Booking

We can transport bikes free of charge and we are able to carry road and mountain bikes (one bike per guest). Please book your bike by, at least noon the day before you travel, through sleeper.scot or by calling our Guest Service Centre. We guarantee the safe arrival of bikes with a reservation, booked by noon the day before travel. For group bookings (nine or more guests travelling) who want to book together, you must call the Guest Service Centre at the time you book to agree arrangements for transporting your bikes.

All Guests who book bikes on our Fort William service are required to move these to a new coach during a changeover of coaches at Edinburgh Waverley.

Please note that there are a maximum 3 bike spaces on the Inverness to London Euston service, please contact the Guest Service Centre for more information.

Turn up and go

Please note if there is available bike space on our service, we will be able to accommodate your bike without requiring a reservation booked 24 hours in advance. However, we cannot guarantee this and will have to reject your bike if there is no available space. For your own peace of mind, we recommend you reserve in advance.”

Chiltern Railways

“Folding bicycles are permitted on Chiltern services at all times provided they are fully folded and stored without hindering other passengers

Regular bicycles are carried (except tandems) on any Chiltern Railways train on Saturdays, Sundays or Public Holidays subject to space being available, and at the discretion of our staff. 

On Mondays to Fridays you can also use most of our trains. The only exceptions are our busiest peak hour services.

For the safety and comfort of all our passengers, bikes are not allowed at any point during the journey on any train:

    – Arriving London Marylebone, Oxford or Birmingham Moor Street from 0745 to 1000.

    – Leaving London Marylebone, Oxford or Birmingham Moor Street from 1630 to 1930″

CrossCountry

“You’re advised to reserve a space for it before you travel – bike reservations are free and can be made via Twitter (@crosscountryuk) or through Facebook messenger (facebook.com/Crosscountrytrains) for services operated by CrossCountry. We are not able to reserve cycle spaces for travel on another train operator. Alternatively you can reserve a bike space at a station prior to travel.  

On most of our trains we have two reservable bike spaces and one further space for unreserved bikes. Bikes without a reservation will be accepted on a first come, first served basis and can only be carried subject to space being available. If you have a folding bike, we request that you fold these up and place them in luggage racks.

Please check where you should store your bike when you make your reservation. Bikes must be carried in the designated area of the train – we can’t carry bikes in aisles or vestibule areas as they can cause an obstruction.

Cycle reservations made online via our website may take up to 24 hours and spaces are subject to availability. If you require a reservation at short notice, please get in touch through Social Media using our Twitter handle: @CrossCountryUK or through Facebook, where a member of staff will reply within 30 mins, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

East Midlands Trains

“You can bring your bike on board for free, but we only have space for 2 at a time. It’s a good idea to reserve a spot. Cycle reservations are required on some services, see below for more information.

As they’re very popular, cycle reservations are required on services to and from London, and on our Liverpool – Norwich route. It’s free to reserve a cycle space, and needs to be done after you’ve booked your train tickets, but before your journey. Call our Customer Services team on 03457 125 678. It is advised to book your cycle reservations as early as possible; reservations can be made online using our Cycle Reservation form.

Folding cycles are a convenient way to travel when you need to take your cycle on the train.  Folding cycles can be carried on all East Midlands Trains services, provided they can be stored safely in the luggage racks.”

Eurostar

Well, they’ve made a video:

Grand Central

“Cyclists are welcome on board all Grand Central services but we are unable to reserve spaces.

On our Adelante 5-car train services we have a total of 3 bike spaces which can be found in the front carriage of the train.

Bikes can only be carried subject to space being available.

If you have a folding bike, you can carry these as normal hand luggage. 

Bikes must be carried in the designated area of the train – we can’t carry bikes in aisles or vestibule areas as they can cause an obstruction.”

Great Western Railway

“Reserve your bike space:

  • when you book your tickets online
  • by calling 0345 7000 125
  • at your local staffed ticket office

You can reserve a bike space, at the station or over the phone, at any time before your train arrives. We suggest you do this as early as you can. Storage is limited and bikes can’t be kept in the areas by the doors.

Folding bikes with a maximum 20-inch wheel can be carried as luggage without any restriction; please make sure you fold it before boarding.

Reservations for bikes are mandatory on all our High Speed trains.

(Bikes are not allowed on many services at peak times.)

Greater Anglia

“Restrictions of non-folding bikes on peak services

For the comfort and safety of all passengers, only folded cycles can be accommodated during busy times. This applies to the following Stratford and London Liverpool Street station services.

These restrictions apply Monday to Friday, except Bank Holidays:

  • AM – any trains arriving at Stratford or London Liverpool Street between 07:45 and 09:45*
  • PM – any trains departing from Stratford or London Liverpool Street between 16:30 and 18:30*

*Except for reserved spaces on Norwich to/from Liverpool Street services.
On the West Anglia region this applies to services south of Broxbourne only.

Cycle spaces and reservations

London Liverpool Street – Norwich Intercity services

  • Free of charge
  • Reservations in advance are compulsory
  • Six dedicated bicycle spaces are available in the Guard’s van.

The Guard’s van will be locked five minutes before departure time from London Liverpool Street and Norwich. Please arrive in good time to make sure your cycle is safely on board by then. At other Intercity stations you must be in place by the Guard’s van when the train arrives to be allowed to board. If you arrive after this time you will not be allowed to board the train.

Reservations on the mainline Intercity service can be made by calling our Customer Relations team on 0345 600 7245 and selecting option 8. You must provide at least 24 hours in order to make a reservation. Spaces are subject to availability, on a first come, first served basis.

London Liverpool Street – Stansted Airport services

Only fully folded bikes that have been flat packed in preparation for air travel can be carried on Stansted Express services at any time.

Local services in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire

  • Free of charge
  • First come first served
  • Four cycle spaces per train

Restrictions on non-folded cycles also apply on services operated by Greater Anglia arriving at Cambridge station between 07:45 and 08:45 on Mondays to Fridays. Please see the Great Northern and CrossCountry Trains websites for restrictions applying on their services into Cambridge.

These restrictions apply Monday to Friday, except Bank Holidays.”

Great Northern

“Unfortunately we don’t always have space for non-folding bikes.

When we can’t carry non-folding bikes

To make sure there is space for all our passengers at times when our trains are busiest, we don’t allow non-folding bikes:

  • at any time between Drayton Park and Moorgate. This is for safety reasons and complies with Transport for London’s policy of not permitting non-folding bicycles on the London Underground lines shown on the attached map; Highbury & Islington, Old Street and Moorgate stations are all managed by London Underground.
  • on trains south of Stevenage or Hertford North timed to arrive in London between 07:00 and 09:30 Monday to Friday, except on public holidays
  • on trains timed to leave London between 16:00 and 19:00 Monday to Friday, except on public holidays
  • on trains that are timed to leave Ely or Waterbeach or Cambridge North towards Cambridge between 07:45 and 08:45 Monday to Friday, except on public holidays

You can take a bike with you at any time between Stevenage and Hertford North.”

Heathrow Express

No mention of either ‘bicycle’ or ‘cycling’ on their website.

Hull Trains

“Our trains include a cycle carriage area. However, as there are a limited number of spaces, passengers wishing to carry a bicycle are requested to reserve in advance, this is free of charge.”

Merseyrail

“All of our trains have designated areas for cyclists situated at both ends of the train. Our trains become very congested during peak hours, so we advise for your own comfort that you travel off peak when travelling with a bike.

For more information about travelling with a bike on a train click here

Click here to view Merseyrail’s Cycle Policy”

Northern

“Northern is strongly committed to promoting cycling as a sustainable and healthy means of transport that complements our train service. Our vision is to ‘connect people to opportunities by the most sustainable means’ and cycling has an important role to play.

We want to do more to make this an attractive option so we are working with local authorities and the cycling community to see where we can make our stations more cycle-friendly.

Bikes are carried free of charge at any time and you don’t need to make reservations.

The cycle space on trains is clearly marked, both internally and externally. Space is allocated on a first come, first served basis.

We can only carry a maximum of two bikes per train but conductors have responsibility for the safety of their train and have the right to refuse entry if the train is busy.

Please note: a ‘bike’ refers to an unpowered two-wheel cycle – it excludes tandems, tricycles, power-assisted cycles and trailers.”

South Western Railway

“Whether you’re commuting to work or heading on a cycling holiday, we love to welcome cyclists and their bicycles, but spaces for bikes can become limited at busier times. Safety is important to us, so we do have some restrictions on where and when bikes can be transported on our trains.

Even when there isn’t a restriction we can’t guarantee that your bike will be accepted on the train, as space is allocated on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Our staff have the right to refuse a bicycle if there is no space for it to be transported safely. Please be considerate of other passengers at all times.

To avoid delaying trains, make sure you arrive in plenty of time for your train. Station staff can advise you on which of the train doors to use.

You can take a small folding bicycle on any of our trains, as long as there is space for it to be stowed away safely, where it won’t cause an obstruction.

Bicycle restrictions

Restrictions apply during peak weekday travel times at stations shown on the bicycle restrictions map. Bicycles cannot join or leave trains bound for London Waterloo, Reading, Hook, Alton, Guildford and Dorking, due to arrive at London Waterloo between 07:15 and 10:00 inclusive or departing from London Waterloo between 16:45 and 19:00.

Stations between Clapham Junction, Feltham/Strawberry Hill and the Hounslow loop cannot allow bicycles to join or leave trains which are due to leave Clapham Junction between 07:45 and 09:00.

If you are travelling on our London Waterloo to Salisbury/Exeter/Bristol trains you will need to reserve a space for your bike:

Please book at least 24 hours before you travel.

You can take your bike with you at any time to and from most stations on the Guildford-Ascot line. Please see the bicycle restrictions map for more information.

Non-folding bicycles are not allowed on rail replacement bus services at any time – so make sure to check for engineering work before you travel. Small folding bicycles are accepted if fully folded.”

Southeastern

“You can take your bike on any of our Off-Peak services, which includes any time at the weekends and on Bank Holidays.

If you have a folding bike this can be taken on any train, at any time. But they must be folded before being taken onto the platform and remain folded throughout the journey. 

If you have a regular non-folding bike, you can’t take this on our peak time services terminating in London, Monday to Friday. 

Peak times going into London terminals are from 7am to 10am, and leaving London terminals between 4pm and 7pm. So if your train terminates in London before 7am, you can take your non-folding bike. But if your train terminates in London between 7am and 10am, you aren’t allowed to take your non-folding bike.”

Southern

“You can bring non-folding cycles on many of our trains. But during the busy morning and afternoon commuting hours, space on board is at a premium. So unfortunately, we can’t let you bring regular bikes along during peak hours.

Peak hour trains are the following (Monday through Friday, excluding Bank Holidays):

  • trains due to arrive in London, Brighton or Kensington Olympia between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.
  • trains departing London, Brighton or Kensington Olympia between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

We do make exceptions if your journey is entirely within a less crowded part of our network. Download our cycle policy map to see if your journey falls within an unrestricted green zone.”

Thameslink

To make sure there is space for all our passengers at times when our trains are busiest, we don’t allow non-folding bikes:

Peak hour trains are the following:

  • on trains travelling towards London that are timed to arrive at or pass through any central London station between 07:00 and 10:00 Monday to Friday, except on public holidays
  • on trains travelling away from London that are timed to depart from or pass through any central London station between 16:00 and19:00 Monday to Friday, except on public holidays

You can take a bike with you at any time between Bedford and Luton Airport Parkway.

TfL Rail

“Liverpool Street to Shenfield

  • Can’t be carried on any TfL Rail train arriving at Stratford or Liverpool Street between 07:45 and 09:45 and leaving Liverpool Street or Stratford between 16:30 and 18.30, Monday-Friday (except public holidays)

Paddington to Heathrow

  • Can’t be carried on any TfL Rail train leaving Heathrow Airport between 07:30 and 10:00 and leaving London Paddington between 16:30 and 19:00, Monday – Friday (except public holidays)”

Trans Pennine Express

“If you are travelling with a bike, we offer secure cycle storage facilities at our stations that take the hassle out of having to take your bike with you. If you need to take your bike on the train you must make a reservation at least 24 hours before you travel…

…If you’re travelling with a non-folding bike and you’d like to bring it on board with you, you’ll need to book a space for it before you travel. 

You can reserve a bike space when you purchase your ticket in advance, by visiting the booking office, or by calling 0345 600 1671 and selecting option 3.”

Virgin Trains East Coast

“It’s one cycle per customer, and we’ve got space for five cycles (three on some trains). 

  • You must have a reservation for your bike on the train you’re travelling on. Make sure your bike has its reservation ticket clearly displayed. 
  • Please arrive at least 10 minutes before your train is due to leave, and give yourself plenty of time to get to the Train Manager’s van to load your cycle. 
  • Secure your bike using the Velcro straps provided – please don’t use your own bike lock.”

Virgin Trains West Coast

“Our West Coast Mainline trains can take up to four bikes, and our Pendolino trains even have space for two tandems (no penny-farthings though). It’s free, but remember to reserve your space in advance… You can reserve a bike spot up until your departure time, but space is very limited so the earlier you can reserve, the better. If your bike folds up, it can travel any time – no reservation required.”

West Midlands Trains

“You can carry your bike on most trains in the West Midlands, but operators do have differing policies. You may need to reserve a spot for your bike beforehand or check the time of day that you can travel with your bike onto the train.”

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Categories: Cycling, Travel

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4 replies »

  1. On a relevant note: I found out yesterday that the Metrolink trams in Manchester don’t allow bikes on board unless they’re Bromptons (‘folding bicycles are permitted and must be folded’). Could be inconvenient if you’re looking to use one on an ad-hoc basis e.g. mechanical/bad weather etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Most conductors are quite sympathetic and will turn a blind eye if they can, but sometimes you do meet a jobsworth. The problem lies with the companies – they regard cycling as a rival means of transport and not to be encouraged. And if you have panniers on your bike it’s a total nightmare.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Northern is the train I used most often. Although it says 2 bikes per train I have seen as many as 6 at one time- always off peak. I have a trailer but can detach the wheels so it looks like a hold-all and haven’t had a problem.
    I have travelled with my folding bike and trailer on the bus up into Northumberland using my OAP bus pass. I usually get the 6.15 bus to Newcastle and then hang about until 9.30am so I don’t have to pay full fare. its worked for me.

    Liked by 2 people

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