Booking cycle reservations on Virgin Trains

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broadway
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Re: Booking cycle reservations on Virgin Trains

Postby broadway » 17 Jun 2017, 7:40pm

orangebiker wrote:I disagree with whoever above said that taking a train on Virgin is fine once you've booked the ticket. I find the staff rude, obstructive, disrespectful, and have many times found that despite booking a reservation, no-one is available to unlock the special door either getting on or getting off. This has resulted in frantically running up and down the platform trying to find someone, and then being blamed for making the train late. Frequently they tell you to wait in a particular place, only for it to be the other end of a very long train. You then have to get to the other end as fast as you can (having taken off all your luggage you then have to try to carry this as well because they don't allow it to be left on the bike and they don't give you time to take it off once the train arrives), only to be told off when you get there 'you should have asked someone which end it was' the whole thing is depressing in the extreme and can ruin an otherwise good day because of the stress. This is on the West Coast line - maybe that is worse than the East Coast. Other companies such as London Midland, Northern, Transpennine seem to have far nicer staff even if the bike facilities are often full of pushchairs.


Make sure the train manager knows you have a bike and where you are getting off.

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Sweep
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Re: Booking cycle reservations on Virgin Trains

Postby Sweep » 18 Jun 2017, 6:37am

orangebiker wrote:I disagree with whoever above said that taking a train on Virgin is fine once you've booked the ticket. I find the staff rude, obstructive, disrespectful, and have many times found that despite booking a reservation, no-one is available to unlock the special door either getting on or getting off. This has resulted in frantically running up and down the platform trying to find someone, and then being blamed for making the train late. Frequently they tell you to wait in a particular place, only for it to be the other end of a very long train. You then have to get to the other end as fast as you can (having taken off all your luggage you then have to try to carry this as well because they don't allow it to be left on the bike and they don't give you time to take it off once the train arrives), only to be told off when you get there 'you should have asked someone which end it was' the whole thing is depressing in the extreme and can ruin an otherwise good day because of the stress. This is on the West Coast line - maybe that is worse than the East Coast. Other companies such as London Midland, Northern, Transpennine seem to have far nicer staff even if the bike facilities are often full of pushchairs.

Am confused by your post with regard to virgin west coast.
For while that is the one where the bike booking is a disgraceful pig it is the one where subsequently all is usually good. I have never had to remove luggage on virgin west coast pendolinos and believe me I don't underpack. Just wheel the bike into the bay, put the strap around it, go sit in one of the adjacent special seats they automatically keep free for cyclists. So at intermediate stations, if nervous you can check that someone isn't nicking your bike (extremely unlikely) or that another disembarking/embarking cyclist isn't causing issues. By contrast, east coast booking is a joy but the stupid hanging system means you have to take all the luggage off and unload bike and luggage seperately, which can cause minor conflict with time/timetable pressured staff. Of course in a sensible world, the best aspects of east and west would long since have been combined. But such is the wonder of privatised british railways.
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Re: Booking cycle reservations on Virgin Trains

Postby PH » 18 Jun 2017, 10:35am

Sweep wrote:So at intermediate stations, if nervous you can check that someone isn't nicking your bike (extremely unlikely)

... but not unheard of, I know of two people who've lost bikes off trains in the last few years.

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Re: Booking cycle reservations on Virgin Trains

Postby Sweep » 18 Jun 2017, 11:00am

yes I have heard of such things. Must admit I do tend to pop my head in at stations to see that the bike is OK.

Which I suppose makes Virgin West Coast's provision of a couple of "cyclist" seats (that's what it says on the electronic label) next to the bike store all the more thoughtful.

Always been a tad puzzles by those seats - as I will have booked another seat in elsewhere in the train - if possible my favoured forward facing table seat. But then, actually being one of the nervous sort when it comes to bikes, tend to plonk myself in one of the "cyclist" seats even though they are usually non table and backwards facing.

Does this mean that Virgin is not maximising its seat sales?
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Colgrenfell
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Re: Booking cycle reservations on Virgin Trains

Postby Colgrenfell » 19 Jun 2017, 1:18am

mjr wrote:
mercalia wrote:are they the same company, owned by the same people? I know both have Virgin in their name but strange that the ease of the east coast isnt the same on the west?

Wikipedia claims Virgin Trains East Coast is 90% Stagecoach 10% Virgin, whereas Virgin Trains West Coast is 51% Stagecoach 49% Virgin. Strangely, East Coast is not part of Virgin Rail Group like West Coast and the former Cross Country.
Image

I suspect that Virgin Trains East Coast inherited a better online booking system from Directly Operated Railways and have sensibly decided not to break it yet.



Sadly I ended up on beta testing (by mistake) the new virgin east coast booking site.. you can rest assured that they have managed to break it, and at the time of writing it is no longer possible to book bikes at all.. It is also much harder to use and the cheaper fares are much more successfully (for Virgin) hidden.

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Re: Booking cycle reservations on Virgin Trains

Postby orangebiker » 28 Jun 2017, 5:34pm

broadway wrote:
Make sure the train manager knows you have a bike and where you are getting off.


Often the train manager never comes through as they check tickets before you get on at the two stations I normally get on at. Even if you do tell them, they tend to forget.

I used to do it on a weekly basis and I used to dread it. Once I was bodily dragged from a train by a member of virgin staff screaming 'get her off!' who thought my cycle reservation was not valid (it was - I'd already shown it to one of her colleagues). You would have thought a murder was being committed the way she was screaming at me. Finally gave up and used the much slower but much more relaxing London Midland service.

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Re: Booking cycle reservations on Virgin Trains

Postby geocycle » 28 Jun 2017, 5:50pm

So far I've never had a problem with Virgin although their system is a bit nail biting. I book all my rail tickets through their east coast site as you can tick the bike reservation box.

On the longest pendolinos the bike gets locked into the compartment and you have to be alert to the possibility the message a bike is on board has not been passed on to the station crew. Its a daft system but it usually works. One problem I have had is that I often pass through Preston where crews change over so you need to make sure the new train manager knows where you are getting off. The shorter voyagers(?) are easier as you can open the doors yourself. Some of these you can just push your bike on, others you have to use the front wheel hangers. My best experiences have been with Northern rail who don't take reservations and are usually sensible; the worst with TPE where they almost through me off despite my reservation because the space was filled with luggage.

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Re: Booking cycle reservations on Virgin Trains

Postby Richard Fairhurst » 28 Jun 2017, 5:52pm

Interesting post recently on a railway forum...: http://www.railforums.co.uk/showthread.php?t=148798

It's talking about the ATOS WebTIS train booking engine, as used on the East Coast, GWR, Transpennine, Chiltern etc. websites - the one that does bike reservations.

It suggests that it can't cope with booking a bike onto a train that does have Advance tickets but doesn't allocate particular seats to them. (This is sometimes known as "counted places" - i.e. there are 20 places counted out on that train for Advance tickets - and seems to be more often found on regional/local trains than intercity ones.)

The example given is that booking a bike reservation from London to Retford (on Virgin East Coast) was fine, but trying to go a few stops further on a branch line (to Bulwell) made the booking engine come up with a "sorry, no bike spaces" message, even though there were bike spaces on the East Coast bit, and the branch line bit doesn't have bike reservations anyway.

So if you book bike spaces online and are having difficulties, I guess splitting the journey into two separate tickets is probably the best way around this. Personally I've pretty much stopped taking my full-size bike on the train and now just take the folder instead. :(
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tim_f
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Re: Booking cycle reservations on Virgin Trains

Postby tim_f » 28 Jun 2017, 9:49pm

May be that explains why I could not buy reserve a bike space when purchasing a ticket from Newcastle to Dover but could if I split the journey.

Going a bit off topic I found out that I could book a bike space on SNCF web site by setting language to french which allows extra options to be chosen.
Site work s with google translate apart from the date choser widget - but typing in date works.

broadway
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Re: Booking cycle reservations on Virgin Trains

Postby broadway » 29 Jun 2017, 9:16am

orangebiker wrote:
broadway wrote:
Make sure the train manager knows you have a bike and where you are getting off.


Often the train manager never comes through as they check tickets before you get on at the two stations I normally get on at. Even if you do tell them, they tend to forget.

I used to do it on a weekly basis and I used to dread it. Once I was bodily dragged from a train by a member of virgin staff screaming 'get her off!' who thought my cycle reservation was not valid (it was - I'd already shown it to one of her colleagues). You would have thought a murder was being committed the way she was screaming at me. Finally gave up and used the much slower but much more relaxing London Midland service.


Never happened to me, but then I tell them when I get on and remind them just before I get off. As for a screaming member of staff I hope you reported her.

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Re: Booking cycle reservations on Virgin Trains

Postby mercalia » 30 Jun 2017, 10:09am

Sweep wrote:
orangebiker wrote:I disagree with whoever above said that taking a train on Virgin is fine once you've booked the ticket. I find the staff rude, obstructive, disrespectful, and have many times found that despite booking a reservation, no-one is available to unlock the special door either getting on or getting off. This has resulted in frantically running up and down the platform trying to find someone, and then being blamed for making the train late. Frequently they tell you to wait in a particular place, only for it to be the other end of a very long train. You then have to get to the other end as fast as you can (having taken off all your luggage you then have to try to carry this as well because they don't allow it to be left on the bike and they don't give you time to take it off once the train arrives), only to be told off when you get there 'you should have asked someone which end it was' the whole thing is depressing in the extreme and can ruin an otherwise good day because of the stress. This is on the West Coast line - maybe that is worse than the East Coast. Other companies such as London Midland, Northern, Transpennine seem to have far nicer staff even if the bike facilities are often full of pushchairs.

Am confused by your post with regard to virgin west coast.
For while that is the one where the bike booking is a disgraceful pig it is the one where subsequently all is usually good. I have never had to remove luggage on virgin west coast pendolinos and believe me I don't underpack. Just wheel the bike into the bay, put the strap around it, go sit in one of the adjacent special seats they automatically keep free for cyclists. So at intermediate stations, if nervous you can check that someone isn't nicking your bike (extremely unlikely) or that another disembarking/embarking cyclist isn't causing issues. By contrast, east coast booking is a joy but the stupid hanging system means you have to take all the luggage off and unload bike and luggage seperately, which can cause minor conflict with time/timetable pressured staff. Of course in a sensible world, the best aspects of east and west would long since have been combined. But such is the wonder of privatised british railways.


well the trains that go all the way up to Scotland have a larger quards van with more conventional hoops and straps you can attach you bike to, horozontally - the train I got back from York yesterday was that type; the the train I went to York that ended there had those hanging hooks and had it not been for strong fellow cyclist I doubt I could have got my bike on the hook. so in future book a train that goes all the way to Scotland, maybe a better chance of getting the good train? By the way I had a small accident at York station and fainted in the coffee shop waiting room - too hot and an aweful sickly coffee smell - not normal coffee but some horrible concoction ( I advice you all not to use that waiting room ) and hit my head and needed the cut to be glued and checked in the local hospital - Not only did Virgin/Station pay for the return taxi but also bumped my return ticket up from the advanced to the next train and also first class :D and I had a nice curry and softdrinks and squash on the return journey for free - I dont think they wanted to have me around for the train I should have been on :lol: get rid of me asap :lol: Not their fault of course but I suppose protecting against any legal actions. Any way my experience of East Coast line has been nothing but good

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Re: Booking cycle reservations on Virgin Trains

Postby bikepacker » 30 Jun 2017, 11:14am

Due to having to attend a family funeral and other commitments, I had to take the train to York. Four trains, two were wheel on and leave bags in place the others were remove panniers and hang up. I had changes at Birmingham New St and everything went very well. Staff on all trains and stations were helpful and friendly. Can't wish for anything more from the rail service.
Last edited by bikepacker on 1 Jul 2017, 12:15pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Sweep
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Re: Booking cycle reservations on Virgin Trains

Postby Sweep » 30 Jun 2017, 11:44am

Hell mercalia - they couldn't have done much more than that for you. Trust you are recovered.

I still tend to think of Virgin as west coast.

Usually take their Pendolinos which as far as I know all have the storage which allows you to keep the bags on - a joy to use.

Hate the hooks which I usually find on the East Coast but then I am usually only going as far as Leeds.

Thanks for the tip about the scotland bound trains - you sure this is 100 per cent the case?
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mercalia
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Re: Booking cycle reservations on Virgin Trains

Postby mercalia » 30 Jun 2017, 2:46pm

Sweep wrote:Hell mercalia - they couldn't have done much more than that for you. Trust you are recovered.

I still tend to think of Virgin as west coast.

Usually take their Pendolinos which as far as I know all have the storage which allows you to keep the bags on - a joy to use.

Hate the hooks which I usually find on the East Coast but then I am usually only going as far as Leeds.

Thanks for the tip about the scotland bound trains - you sure this is 100 per cent the case?


Well I have a black eye. Just dont use the waiting room/cafe on Platform 1 as you come in York station unless you like sickly coffee concoctions that fill the air :lol: Cant say I dont use trains enough just an idea to keep in mind to increase your chances of not getting the hooks. maybe some here needs to test it and report back. But one thought - the hookless train has a much larger guards van - when I returned from York on the Scotland train there were lots of suitcases in it - I doubt they could have got them in the smaller guardsvan of the train with cycle hooks and furthermore the hookless train could take 5 or so cycles, the hook train only 2 or 3 - so I suppose they would use the hookless trains on the long distance routes?

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Sweep
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Re: Booking cycle reservations on Virgin Trains

Postby Sweep » 30 Jun 2017, 3:39pm

Have sent them a clear question mercalia et al.

If I get a clear answer I will post it.
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