First Great Western

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
Block
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First Great Western

Postby Block » 6 Aug 2014, 4:18pm

I have just tried to book my bike on the train from Cornwall to London for this Friday and have been told by First Great Western that all trains on that day are fully booked and have no space for bikes!! He suggested that I just turn up as the train manager may find space for my bike. It sounds like a bit of a risk to me.

Does anyone have experience of this????

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Mick F
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Re: First Great Western

Postby Mick F » 6 Aug 2014, 5:59pm

No, not any experience of your problem, but it doesn't surprise me in the slightest.

Having taken my bike from Plymouth to Up North, I went down to the train the previous week (same train) and chatted to the train staff and asked their advice. When it came to the day to go, I made sure I was down early enough and took Bike and its booking ticket to the staff, and loaded Bike on board.

Compare this scenario to getting Bike from Plymouth down to Redruth. No booking, but I turned up in hope.
The train was very different, and I loaded Bike into what can best be described as a "bike rack".

With Bike in the rack, the train set off and collected other bikes enroute west. At no time could I check that Bike was ok because it was forbidden for train passengers to go into the bike stowage area but all the passengers getting on or off with bikes could get in there. There was nothing whatsoever to stop a passenger getting off to pop into the bike stowage and steal Bike. :shock:

My trip Plymouth to Redruth was stressed to say the least.
Mick F. Cornwall

manybikes
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Re: First Great Western

Postby manybikes » 6 Aug 2014, 7:41pm

I have experienced your dilemma. I booked in plenty of time and got on the train at Penzance. There was already "jostling" to get bikes onto the train and it was full when we left.
During the journey at other stops people loaded extra bikes but in the doorways etc.
The train manager was amenable to this for a while until suddenly more bikes were squeezed on. At that point a tannoy announcement was put out saying that it was too dangerous and she wanted to inspect bike tickets. The train did not leave the station until a number of passengers and bikes were removed.
I don't think she was being unreasonable (she did check my ticket upon my arrival) but the sheer numbers overwhelmed space and I suspect she had to think of her job if health and safety checked in the event of an accident. It wasn't made easier for her by the unhelpful responses of some of those who hadn't booked.
So you takes your chances

cotswolds
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Re: First Great Western

Postby cotswolds » 6 Aug 2014, 8:08pm

Assuming the train is a High Speed Train - likely on that route - there are 6 bookable spaces in Coach A (and possibly space to cram in 1 or 2 more) and then a further larger space in the adjacent power car usable at the train manager's discretion.

A few years ago I did the Exmouth Exodus and my car pick up arrangements went wrong. I cycled to Exeter to try and get on a train without a reservation. The guy selling me the ticket said that there were a lot of cyclists travelling and I might not get on the first train. Down on the platform there must have been 20 cyclists there ahead of me so I wasn't hopeful of getting away quickly. As the first train came in, somebody appeared to open up the power car space and the bikes were then sorted so that those for Bristol weren't behind those for London. Everyone got on and the train left on time, I was very impressed.

I've had problems with call centre staff (they let me book a tandem on a train that didn't take tandems) but I've always found station staff to be positive about dealing with bikes. There's always a chance that you'll get a train manager having a bad day, so I don't think you're guaranteed to get on, but the risk seems low to me.

cjchambers
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Re: First Great Western

Postby cjchambers » 6 Aug 2014, 8:22pm

Cornwall to London sounds like a potentially expensive journey. If you have an advance ticket for a particular departure, all it takes is for the guard to say 'no', and you'll be left standing on the platform having a) lost your money and b) facing having to buy a new, more expensive ticket for a later train.

Also, what about someone getting on later down the line who does have a booked space? Only to find that the bike area is full, and that the guard is too busy/lazy/disinterested to do a headcount of bike tickets so just tells them to get off the train with their bike? (yes, unfortunately some train guards are as bad as this).

There used to a sticky thread for reporting issues with trains on bikes - does anyone know where it has gone?

PS. Sorry I don't have any more constructive suggestions!

Richard Fairhurst
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Re: First Great Western

Postby Richard Fairhurst » 6 Aug 2014, 10:08pm

FGW are, in my experience, pretty much the most bike-friendly train company in Britain - heck, they even stumped up part of the cost of our local NCN route. So a few things to bear in mind:

[*] "All trains are booked" doesn't necessarily mean that every bike space is fully occupied at every point between Penzance and London. It means that, of those trains where bike spaces are bookable, there is some point at the journey - might just be the section between two spots - at which all spaces are booked. So there's wriggle room.
[*] Not all trains have bookable bike spaces. Yes, the long-distance ones are, but you don't have to restrict yourself to those.
[*] Conductors can use their discretion. As Cotswolds has noted, they can open up the bike spaces in the power car if need be, and this appears to be more prevalent on Penzance-London than any other FGW route.

You'd be daft to buy an advance ticket, of course, but assuming you're travelling on a walk-up-and-go ticket, you may well be ok. But if you'd like more certainty, here's an alternative idea: book yourself (and bike) onto a South West Trains service from Exeter to Waterloo. These are slower, and they don't have a whole bunch of bike spaces, but they're less well known so you might well be lucky. Then get a local train to Exeter. There are a few stoppers without bookable spaces, or you could also get your bike onto a CrossCountry service (not many bike spaces, but less likely to be full in Cornwall, and one of them is unreservable anyway).

And good luck!
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Re: First Great Western

Postby bikepacker » 6 Aug 2014, 10:41pm

I have taken my bike to Cornwall 3 times by FGW without a bike reservation and always got on the train. Haven't done it the other way as I have always cycled back. When my son lived in Devon I have got FGW back from Newton Abbot a few times without a reservation and again always got on the train.
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mjr
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Re: First Great Western

Postby mjr » 7 Aug 2014, 1:14am

Wow. FGW most bike friendly train company? We're all doomed! I've suffered their unfriendly local trains around "cycling city" Bristol a lot (up to six racks per coach but some guards enforce the two bikes per train rule) so the longerfl distance services must be a lot better.

If you're travelling on a restricted ticket and are refused service because there are too many bikes, I'd expect the station staff to open it without much trouble, as long as the station is staffed. I've done that without bike on GW for other reasons and with bike on GN. I'd probably try to get a bike reservation if possible, though.
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TonyR
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Re: First Great Western

Postby TonyR » 7 Aug 2014, 6:22am

For travelling with a bike its always worth booking via the East Coast trains website. You can add your bike reservation as part of the online booking process which most other websites don't allow. You may need to work through the different trains on the day to find one with space but at least you're in control of the options and choices.

Having said that I very much doubt you"ll get a reservation on Friday and there is a high risk you won't get your bike on the train. This weekend is a big cycling weekend in London with a closed road family ride through the city on Saturday expected to attract tens of thousands of cyclists and the closed road Prudential London Surrey 100 sportive and race on Sunday with 27,000 cyclists coming from all over the country and beyond. So what spaces there are will have been booked ages ago and lots of others may be trying to do what you're trying in the days before.

Geoff.D
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Re: First Great Western

Postby Geoff.D » 7 Aug 2014, 7:48am

Some years ago I took my tandem to Canada, as part of my checked luggage. I removed both wheels, bars and rear derailleur and taped them within the frame. Dropped the saddle, removed the pedals and taped the cranks fixed. I encased it all in a stiff plastic bag (a mountaineering bivi-bag) and taped it tight, incorporating some taped handles. The amount of dismantling was minimal and all was well.

Would something similar allow the bike to be taken on a train as luggage (in one, or two pieces), to stand in one of the luggage alcoves? It would be clean and (possibly) in sight. I've no experience of doing this, but considering some of the huge luggage and parcels that people take on trains, it may not be much different.

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mjr
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Re: First Great Western

Postby mjr » 7 Aug 2014, 8:16am

http://www.atob.org.uk/bike-rail/uk-bik ... vel-guide/ says luggage should be less than a metre cubed and less than a metre in each direction, increasing to 1m50 if there's a luggage van (which I guess is those using locomotive- hauled trains like 125s, 225s and class 90s, so GW, EC and some LE, EM and XC I think). Anyone know what size a packed bike is?
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tatanab
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Re: First Great Western

Postby tatanab » 7 Aug 2014, 8:24am

mjr wrote:Anyone know what size a packed bike is?
Strip off mudguards and carrier, then the package is the length of the frame. A touring frame typically has a 39 or 40" wheelbase so just about scrapes in at 1 metre.

Block
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Re: First Great Western

Postby Block » 7 Aug 2014, 8:58am

TonyR wrote:Having said that I very much doubt you"ll get a reservation on Friday and there is a high risk you won't get your bike on the train. This weekend is a big cycling weekend in London with a closed road family ride through the city on Saturday expected to attract tens of thousands of cyclists and the closed road Prudential London Surrey 100 sportive and race on Sunday with 27,000 cyclists coming from all over the country and beyond. So what spaces there are will have been booked ages ago and lots of others may be trying to do what you're trying in the days before.



This is why I'm taking my bike to London - I'm doing the sportive on Sunday.

Guess I just need to hope for a friendly train manager on Friday! The person on the phone said that I should just turn up and talk to the train manager. He seemed to be trying to suggest that I would have a space, but said he "couldnt guarantee it"

Thanks for all your advice. I'll let you know if I get on the train!!

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Re: First Great Western

Postby skicat » 7 Aug 2014, 9:17am

TonyR wrote:For travelling with a bike its always worth booking via the East Coast trains website. You can add your bike reservation as part of the online booking process which most other websites don't allow.


The FGW booking system does allow this now. It works the same way as East Coast (in fact it's the same underlying software system) in that you have to reserve a seat before being allowed to reserve a cycle slot. I recently booked a Penzance to Maidenhead journey using the site. Tickets turned up first class post the next day.
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TonyR
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Re: First Great Western

Postby TonyR » 7 Aug 2014, 9:19am

Block wrote:This is why I'm taking my bike to London - I'm doing the sportive on Sunday.

Guess I just need to hope for a friendly train manager on Friday! The person on the phone said that I should just turn up and talk to the train manager. He seemed to be trying to suggest that I would have a space, but said he "couldnt guarantee it"

Thanks for all your advice. I'll let you know if I get on the train!!


That's why you need a Plan B. The person on the phone probably doesn't realise just how many people with bikes will be trying to get to London then and no matter how accommodating the train manager there will be a very limited carrying capacity available on the trains to satisfy a lot of demand.

I'm doing the ride too - maybe see you on the day.