Bikes on London-Cambridge Greater Anglia trains?

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toontra
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Bikes on London-Cambridge Greater Anglia trains?

Postby toontra » 25 Oct 2018, 12:47pm

I'm hoping someone can help with info on taking bikes on this line? I've spent the last hour on the phone with various Greater Anglia departments trying to book a bike reservation from London Liverpool Street to Elsenham going out on a Saturday morning and coming back at 10pm on a Wednesday (in 3 weeks time) , so both "off peak"

After being kept on hold for an eternity I was told all bikes spaces had been reserved already. I gave them alternative times - from 9 - 11pm - same response - all booked. I just don't believe that someone has had the foresight to make bike reservations on all the Cambridge - London trains this far in advance. More like the system is talking *****.

Trouble is, I am flying in/out of Stansted with full touring gear and don't want to get stuck on a platform & miss the flight. Greater Anglia don't allow bikes at all on the direct Stansted trains, even off peak, thus the detour via Elsenham.

What I'm wondering is - what if I just rock up at Liverpool St / Elsenham with my bike? Does anyone use this route & know the score? I seem to remember getting this exact train a few times before and their being no problem with several bikes in doorways, but that was a few years ago and things may have changed.

Any advice gratefully received!

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mjr
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Re: Bikes on London-Cambridge Greater Anglia trains?

Postby mjr » 25 Oct 2018, 1:09pm

toontra wrote:I'm hoping someone can help with info on taking bikes on this line? I've spent the last hour on the phone with various Greater Anglia departments trying to book a bike reservation from London Liverpool Street to Elsenham going out on a Saturday morning and coming back at 10pm on a Wednesday (in 3 weeks time) , so both "off peak"

After being kept on hold for an eternity I was told all bikes spaces had been reserved already. I gave them alternative times - from 9 - 11pm - same response - all booked. I just don't believe that someone has had the foresight to make bike reservations on all the Cambridge - London trains this far in advance. More like the system is talking b0!!ocks.

Yes and the wonderful Greater Anglia subsidiary of Dutch Railways seems to hate bikes. It's been some time since I did it, but I've never known bike reservations on the West Anglia lines since electrification. That may change once the current Mark-3s and Electrostars are replaced by Aventras from next year but I doubt it.

The gospel is https://www.greateranglia.co.uk/travel- ... -on-trains which currently says "Free of charge, First come first served, Four cycle spaces per train" (but services are often two or three trains coupled) with time restrictions into London and Cambridge. Look for bike symbols on/by the door or the red stripe above a set of doors, but I'm not sure if that's the current livery.
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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toontra
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Re: Bikes on London-Cambridge Greater Anglia trains?

Postby toontra » 25 Oct 2018, 1:23pm

Thanks mjr.

So you reckon it'll be OK if I get to Liverpool St early to be the first on?

The confusion arises because this is contrary to Greater Anglia's own info for this particular route. When I went on their website to book the passenger tickets it says, (if you click the "details" tab for your selected journey) - yes, all types of bikes ARE allowed but ONLY with a reservation.

There the fun starts. There is no option to book the reservation on the website - instead you have to ring a number, get re-directed twice including to an offshore company who then put you on hold while they ring a dept in the UK :roll: (so you have to repeat the details 3 times) only to be told there are no spaces available on any of the 4 trips.

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Re: Bikes on London-Cambridge Greater Anglia trains?

Postby mjr » 25 Oct 2018, 1:46pm

toontra wrote:So you reckon it'll be OK if I get to Liverpool St early to be the first on?

The confusion arises because this is contrary to Greater Anglia's own info for this particular route. When I went on their website to book the passenger tickets it says, (if you click the "details" tab for your selected journey) - yes, all types of bikes ARE allowed but ONLY with a reservation.

There the fun starts. There is no option to book the reservation on the website - instead you have to ring a number, get re-directed twice including to an offshore company who then put you on hold while they ring a dept in the UK :roll: (so you have to repeat the details 3 times) only to be told there are no spaces available on any of the 4 trips.

I think so, but I just tried mock-buying this on gwr.com (which uses "Mixing Deck" which offers bike reservations online) and it offers and seems to allow both seat and bike reservations, but then warns both reservations are not possible for some legs - which is odd for a journey which only has one leg. So I'd say I'm 90% confident that it's Greater Anglia uploading nonsense to the ticketing system and it would all be fine or at worst you'll be able to persuade the nice station and train staff with a printout or saved copy of their own web page.

I've asked some Cambridge cyclists at https://mobile.twitter.com/mjray/status ... 5278748672 and replies should appear there.

This sort of nonsense can tempt one to go "F it" and ride the 42 miles :-(
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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toontra
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Re: Bikes on London-Cambridge Greater Anglia trains?

Postby toontra » 25 Oct 2018, 1:52pm

Thanks again mjr.

I've just got off the phone to a manager at Liverpool Street and the official line is, "yeah mate, just rock up"!

I would normally ride up there but I'll be carrying all the packing stuff and weighty bike bag on top of the touring gear, and I'd like not to be too sweaty on arrival.

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Re: Bikes on London-Cambridge Greater Anglia trains?

Postby mjr » 25 Oct 2018, 1:57pm

Thanks for the follow-up. If it's not too much trouble, could you screenshot and attach whatever it was on GA's ticketing site that said reservations are required? I'd like to send it to them. You never know - they might fix it.
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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toontra
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Re: Bikes on London-Cambridge Greater Anglia trains?

Postby toontra » 25 Oct 2018, 2:16pm

Here's a screenshot of what was on the National Rail booking page for that journey when I tried to book. It was the "reservation required" bit that grabbed my attention, though reading down it becomes more ambiguous. When you click through to the Greater Anglia payment site then all mention of bikes disappears.

Oh - and when I clicked the "Greater Anglia Cycle Policy" link at the bottom of the page I got the message: "Whoops - Can't Find That Info". That's when the fun started!

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Psamathe
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Re: Bikes on London-Cambridge Greater Anglia trains?

Postby Psamathe » 25 Oct 2018, 3:55pm

I found Greater Anglia very helpful on the couple of journeys I'v done with bike on their trains (both the Customer Services for booking and the station staff). I was a bit taken aback when I found that for lines requiring booking you must book min 24 hrs before travel (fortunately I found that out 25 hrs before travel).

For example, I was not sure how long it would take me Harwich->Ipswich thus not sure what train I'd make so they said they'd book me on both (which I agreed to only after they'd checked there were plenty of other free spaced and I'd not be blocking anybody with the booking I'd not use).

I misunderstood their booking reference system so when I arrived at Ipswich the ticket office could not find the reservation so said "just get on the train, nobody will mind, they'll be loads of space, ignore the booking ...".

The only think that people might know is that when you call ‭+44 345 600 7245‬ I remember the obvious "Press x for ..." choice does not get you to the right place. From memory you select option 8 (maybe a bad memory or maybe they'll change their menu options ...).

So my limited experience was actually a good one.

Ian

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mjr
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Re: Bikes on London-Cambridge Greater Anglia trains?

Postby mjr » 25 Oct 2018, 4:12pm

toontra wrote:Here's a screenshot of what was on the National Rail booking page for that journey when I tried to book.

Help! I can't get the wrong info shown in the screenshot, but here's what they asked:
@greateranglia
Replying to @mjray
Hi MJ, can you tell me which section of the website you clicked on to get these results? As I have just put your journey in to the journey planner and the cycle reservations link to the Greater Anglia wesbite, showing the correct info as advised by GA on twitter.
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
All the above is CC-By-SA and no other implied copyright license to Cycle magazine.

toontra
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Re: Bikes on London-Cambridge Greater Anglia trains?

Postby toontra » 25 Oct 2018, 4:26pm

The screenshot is from the National Rail website. As I make a lot of train trips in different areas I always go there first, not knowing who the operators are for the area. You get switched to the GA website for final booking and payment.

I've just tried starting afresh from the Greater Anglia home page https://www.greateranglia.co.uk and gone through the process of trying to book the same journey. There is absolutely no mention of bikes at any stage of the process (which is what further confused me earlier when coming from the NR site saying reservations were required!).

No idea what they tell people on Facebook or Twitter as I don't use them and that's never been needed with any other train operator I've used (and I travel by train with my bike rather a lot!)

Interestingly the exact same journey's ticket price is significantly more expensive booking direct with Anglia rather than going through National Rail! Would have thought it would be the other way around.

If you do contact them again, mjr, you could ask them why no-one at Greater Anglia customer services could answer my simple question. I was passed round 4 separate departments, one overseas, and either they didn't know anything or told me yes, I needed a reservation, but none were available for any of the 4 journeys I asked about. I specifically asked them at that stage if it was because there was a reservation system on those trains and they had been booked already (which seemed unlikely) or another reason. They said they couldn't answer that - obviously because reservations aren't needed :evil: Finally, after 2 hours and a lot of stress someone finally admitted they didn't have a clue and suggested ringing Liverpool Street (who of course initially said it was a Greater Anglia matter :roll: but I persisted and spoke to a station manager who immediately told me I didn't need a reservation!

Honestly, you'd think a train company could answer a simple enquiry like this in a timely manner. It's almost as if they don't know how their own trains actually operate.

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Re: Bikes on London-Cambridge Greater Anglia trains?

Postby Psamathe » 25 Oct 2018, 7:53pm

toontra wrote:.....If you do contact them again, mjr, you could ask them why no-one at Greater Anglia customer services could answer my simple question. I was passed round 4 separate departments, one overseas, and either they didn't know anything or told me yes, I needed a reservation, but none were available for any of the 4 journeys I asked about.......

What menu option did you select in their phone system? Press the wrong one (and as I said above, the right one is not obvious) and you will get passed all over the place. I've found that selecting the correct option and I get accurate answers there and then, no passing around.

Which phone system menu option did you select? (There is only one department that handles bikes on their trains)

toontra wrote:.....Honestly, you'd think a train company could answer a simple enquiry like this in a timely manner. It's almost as if they don't know how their own trains actually operate.

I guess you just didn't bother to read my earlier post!

Ian

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Re: Bikes on London-Cambridge Greater Anglia trains?

Postby toontra » 25 Oct 2018, 8:03pm

Psamathe wrote:
toontra wrote:.....If you do contact them again, mjr, you could ask them why no-one at Greater Anglia customer services could answer my simple question. I was passed round 4 separate departments, one overseas, and either they didn't know anything or told me yes, I needed a reservation, but none were available for any of the 4 journeys I asked about.......

What menu option did you select in their phone system? Press the wrong one (and as I said above, the right one is not obvious) and you will get passed all over the place. I've found that selecting the correct option and I get accurate answers there and then, no passing around.

Which phone system menu option did you select? (There is only one department that handles bikes on their trains)


I first rang 08000282878. They told me to ring 03456007245 x8 x3 (specifying the extensions). From there I was shunted overseas before being returned to the UK.

Psamathe wrote:
toontra wrote:.....Honestly, you'd think a train company could answer a simple enquiry like this in a timely manner. It's almost as if they don't know how their own trains actually operate.

I guess you just didn't bother to read my earlier post!


Of course I read your post, about 2 hours after my problem had been answered by a manager at Liverpool Street (see above), or maybe you just didn't read my post!

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Re: Bikes on London-Cambridge Greater Anglia trains?

Postby backnotes » 26 Oct 2018, 12:51pm

Glad you got a sensible answer from Liverpool Street.

I live on this line, and outside the "rush hour" times they publish when only folding bikes are allowed, you can just put a bike in the normal door area / vestibule anywhere along the train. There are (at least) two types of rolling stock used, and one of these doesn't have anywhere special set aside for bikes, so they have to go in the door area.

I've never had a problem with taking a non-folding bike on this line outside of the specified peak hours at each end of the day. You can also get away with it on trains that leave London in the evening rush hour by the time they get towards Cambridge, but I probably wouldn't risk my holiday on that!

What you may be seeing online is the fact that many of the trains on this line don't have any bookable cycle spaces in the first place, so they may all look impossible / unbookable online, but can in fact carry bikes.

More generally, I have found that trying to book cycle spaces either online or over the phone is generally tricky. The best way I have found is to turn up at a staffed booking office in advance of the journey and book the bike reservation in person. This often takes them a while, and they have to try different screens and ways to do things, so you can see that the underlying booking system is a bit clunky as they wrestle with it, but they have always got there in the end for me, and you walk away with a printed proof you have a bike reservation rather than an email that suggests you may have one.

toontra
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Re: Bikes on London-Cambridge Greater Anglia trains?

Postby toontra » 26 Oct 2018, 1:45pm

Thanks for the info! Yes, agree with you on all points. Doing these things by phone is tricky but Greater Anglia don't have a live chat function on their website (which I find is usually the easiest and quickest way to get a query sorted) so phoning was the only way to try and resolve the conflicting info I was getting from various sources.

A last resort, as you say, would have been to actually go down to Liverpool Street and see how it works but that shouldn't really be necessary. Anyway, sorted now so one less thing to worry about - other things include hoping my bike hasn't been mangled by baggage handlers when it comes off the plane in Tenerife (as has happened before :shock: )

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Re: Bikes on London-Cambridge Greater Anglia trains?

Postby raaab » 30 Oct 2018, 10:25pm

I live in Cambridge and frequently take my bike to London via GA or the other line (Northern). I never booked a bike on and never even thought to do so.
Once when I was trying to get on a peak train which my bike (the train was empty) a guy said not to but all other times it was fine