UK Trains - Online bike reservations

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
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Mick F
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Re: UK Trains - Online bike reservations

Postby Mick F » 16 May 2018, 9:23am

A possible nightmare in the offing?

On Tuesday next week, I want to ride the first 27 bridges of my quest to ride over all the bridges of the A30 between Exeter and Penzance. I'll be leaving home after an early breakfast and doing the bridges, then getting the train home.

To that end, I went onto the GWR website and booked myself onto the 16:46 and then clicked on the extras bit to book my bike. It seemed to accept it, but when I came to pay, there was no bike booking showing. No matter, I'll give them a ring to say that their website isn't accepting bike bookings and ask them to add my bike.

After hanging on listening to endless music(?), I eventually found that there were no space available for my bike! I asked why their website didn't say so, and was told their website "has issues". :lol:

Any road up, because my £10.60 single ticket is an anytime off-peak ticket, I could get another train and they could book my bike onto it. I went for the earlier one at 15:18 as the later one wouldn't get me home until after 10pm.

The trouble is, that I had a seat booking for the 16:46 and would have a ticket to prove it, but now I just have a booking reference number for my seat Coach E seat E30 to show to the train manager, plus a booking reference number for my bike - ie no tickets for either, just numbers. I'll attach a handwritten reference number to my bike.

I'll have cycled 64miles to do these 27 bridges, and knowing my pessimistic luck, I'll have to cycle 50miles home as well. Not the end of the world of course, but 114 miles is a bit too much for me these days I fear. Mind you, no doubt I'd be home earlier than the last train would get me home. :wink:
Mick F. Cornwall

AndyK
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Re: UK Trains - Online bike reservations

Postby AndyK » 16 May 2018, 11:30am

Re. GWR: I uncovered another quirk of the booking system last week.

I had to book a ticket from Winchester through to Bristol. (I was off to the Cycling UK AGM, as it happens.) I wanted the bike with me so that I could cycle home after the meeting.

I tried to buy a ticket on the GWR website for a route via Southampton: SWR train to So'ton then GWR train to Temple Meads.

Now, bike spaces aren't bookable on the first (SWR) train, but they are on the second (GWR) train. But the website wouldn't let me book a bike space at all just because there were no bookable spaces on one of the legs of the journey!

The only way I could book a space on the GWR train was to buy two separate tickets: one for Winchester-Southampton, then one with a bike booking for Southampton-Bristol. That would cost me a lot more. (Or to be precise, it would cost Cycling UK a lot more and we can't have that. :-))

So... I sent a private message to the GWR Twitter account saying, "How do I get round this?" They quickly replied, asking me which train I wanted to catch. A few minutes later they came back with "OK, I've booked you a bike space on that train," accompanied by a screenshot of the booking confirmation with my name and a reference number that I could print out to wave at train staff.

At this point I hadn't even bought my ticket.

That's definitely the quickest and easiest way to book a bike space I've ever experienced. It meant I didn't have to go through the stupid seat-reservation routine when I went back to the website and bought the ticket. I didn't have to listen to holding music on the phone or stand in a queue at the station. Just a couple of messages and it was sorted.

On the one hand I'm worried that if everyone starts doing this, the GWR social media team will rapidly get fed up and stop offering to help. Maybe I should have kept this to myself. :D On the other hand, just maybe the message will get through to management and they'll press the providers of the online booking system to get it sorted out. We can hope.

Of course it turned out there was no problem with bike space on the GWR train anyway, but having the booking gave me a little more confidence that I'd be able to get to my appointment on time with my bike.

toontra
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Re: UK Trains - Online bike reservations

Postby toontra » 16 May 2018, 12:41pm

The GWR online booking system is a joke. It took me 10 minutes to buy a single advance ticket last night. At every stage the page would take over a minute to load.

When trying to make a bike reservation I got the error message "Bike reservations are not available for some legs of your journey". My journey didn't have "legs". It was a single trip from Bristol to London without changes (i.e. on the same train). This message has appeared for the last few months. I've learned you just have to ignore it - you will get a bike reservation regardless!
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Mick F
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Re: UK Trains - Online bike reservations

Postby Mick F » 16 May 2018, 1:26pm

toontra wrote:............... you will get a bike reservation regardless!
Not necessarily, as I found out.
If there's no bike space available because they are all booked, the website doesn't tell you that you haven't got one. It took me to get to the paying page before I knew there was no bike space.
Mick F. Cornwall

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nick12
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Re: UK Trains - Online bike reservations

Postby nick12 » 16 May 2018, 4:45pm

I have booked and reserved my ticket with cross country from york to cardiff to cycle lon las cymru early in june. I find the easiest way is get an idea of the time and price of the train then go into the local station and let then sort it out you get a proper ticket and a reservation ticket for the bike. The price was £25 cheaper than when o lopled on line the week befote so was well chuffed.

robing
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Re: UK Trains - Online bike reservations

Postby robing » 19 May 2018, 9:38pm

I used gwr website to book my bike to Holyhead last week to do Lon Las Cymru. Had no problems and went to the station to print out my tickets and cycle reservation beforehand.

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Re: UK Trains - Online bike reservations

Postby Tiberius » 20 May 2018, 5:57am

nick12 wrote: I find the easiest way is get an idea of the time and price of the train then go into the local station and let then sort it out you get a proper ticket and a reservation ticket for the bike. The price was £25 cheaper than when o lopled on line the week befote so was well chuffed.


+1.... :wink:

I did just that yesterday. Scarborough to Morecambe on Transpennine Express/Northern Rail. I sussed the time that I wanted to go on-line, then went to book at my local station.....16 quid cheaper than the on-line price....Nice... :D

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Sweep
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Re: UK Trains - Online bike reservations

Postby Sweep » 20 May 2018, 9:40am

After struggling with virgin west coast's abysmall bike booking call centre, this is what i started to do. The ticket office in clitheroe was wonderful and I got proper tickets for mev and the bike handed over instantly. But now it is under threat of closure!! Apparently northern, the train company that runs trains fromnthere doesn't want to pay for it! Disgraceful. Train companies should be made to pay for ticket offices at stations like tbis in a significant town. It is hardly a "halt". If i need to do thisvagain i will have to pedal 10 miles over a hill.
Sweep

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Re: UK Trains - Online bike reservations

Postby RodT » 20 May 2018, 6:27pm

Just given up on the GWR online booking system. After waiting 3 or 4 minutes for each page to load, I was then told my password had been changed for security reasons. Reset, with all the email palaver? No thanks. I only want to go from Truro to Plymouth. The journey would be quicker than the time it's taking to go through all this.
And anyway, I never wanted an account in the first place, with a password and all that extra data provision. Why do they insist?
Rant over. I shall cycle sedately up to the station in the morning and buy my ticket at the office.

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Mick F
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Re: UK Trains - Online bike reservations

Postby Mick F » 20 May 2018, 6:50pm

Yes, GWR wanted new passwords recently. Mrs Mick F has an account with them, and me too now.
She's in Bedford now, staying with our Daughter2 and husband, and she tried to buy her tickets online. The website was down, so it was all done by telephone. She collected her tickets at Plymouth station via the Fast Ticket machine.

I've arranged mine for Tuesday to get me and my bike back home from Exeter after a ride and will pick them up at Exeter when I arrive there, but the bike booking was an issue ................ see up-thread. :wink:
Mick F. Cornwall

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Re: UK Trains - Online bike reservations

Postby philvantwo » 20 May 2018, 7:15pm

Well done Mick F, which bike will you be using? Oh and don't forget to post a photo of your bike on the train please.
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Mick F
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Re: UK Trains - Online bike reservations

Postby Mick F » 21 May 2018, 6:59am

It will be Moulton.
Yes, a photo or two would be good. :D

I'm keeping a log of longer mileages and have done for many years with Mercian.
I have a spreadsheet calculating my Eddington Numbers (cycling) and I'm at E80 with Mercian, meaning I've ridden 80miles on it over eighty times. E90 is a long way off as I'd need to ride over 90miles another fifty times! :oops:
E81 is within grasp in only another three rides, and E82 in another six. Easily(?) done this year or next.

As for Moulton, I'm only at E31 so I need to do longer rides on it even though it's harder work on that bike. E32 will come in another four rides, so my trip over the bridges to Exeter will count quite well.
Mick F. Cornwall

robing
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Re: UK Trains - Online bike reservations

Postby robing » 23 May 2018, 7:57am

Used gwr to book ticket back home from Chepstow. 2 trains and bike reservations for both. Booked the night before and collected tickets from the station no problem . Even got advanced ticket price.

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Mick F
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Re: UK Trains - Online bike reservations

Postby Mick F » 23 May 2018, 8:56am

Met the 15:18 and loaded the bike on.
No problems whatsoever, and no need to book ................... it appeared.

I'd called in at the station earlier and collected my ticket and then went to the ticket office window for a chat and some reassurance. He assured me that all was well, and gave me a printout with all the authorisations. I went away happy, and bought a beer from the pub down the road.

Got on the train, bike spaces at the front in Coach A. Moulton was the ONLY bike on, and this train had come from Paddington. Only stops between Exeter and Plymouth were Newton Abbot and Totnes. No other bikes came on. The train manager couldn't have cared less whether I had a booking or not .............. but perhaps he knew?

I had a seat booked in Coach E, so made my way through towards E, but the train was almost empty, so I sat down in a seat in B.

Moulton was fine, despite the rubbish bike space.
The straps are supposed to go through the front wheel, but they wouldn't reach a 20" bike wheel, so I wrapped them tightly around the handlebars.
Moulton on the Train.jpeg
Mick F. Cornwall

toontra
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Re: UK Trains - Online bike reservations

Postby toontra » 23 May 2018, 10:04am

These trains are fine for bikes as a rule, but they are in the process of being replaced by GWR with the new Hitachi's. Gone are the guards' vans - instead there are diabolically restrictive hanger compartments which you have to juggle to get even a normal-shape bike into (theoretically 2 per compartment but not sure 2 would even fit), and a convoluted dividing bar system which I can imagine making a nasty dent in a carbon frame. Not sure how many compartments per train but I suspect 2, making a total of 4 bikes. Presumably that's why GWR insist on advance booking bikes these days.

Train staff I have spoken to have real sympathy for cyclists using these trains. No idea how this design passed any meaningful consultation. The over-riding brief must have been to minimise all non-paying space.

Image

Yes Mick, the velcro straps are useless. I always take my own bungee cord to keep the bike in position (not allowed to use any kind of lock).
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