The basics of taking a bike on a UK train

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cycloret
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The basics of taking a bike on a UK train

Postby cycloret » 22 Apr 2011, 1:30pm

I know nothing about the process of taking a bike on a UK train and I need to know. Also it's some time ago since I bought a rail ticket. I've got a C2C planned for a few weeks time and my support driver (wife) broke her wrist yesterday. While I expect she will be recovering well by the time of my C2C, she will be unable to drive, for insurance reasons if nothing else. My only realistic solution looks like letting the train take the strain.

I'll need to travel from Leeds City Square station to Whitehaven then afterwards from Sunderland. I've checked that Northern Trains have a service which takes 2 bikes per train with just one change in Carlisle. There are other routes via Manchester but they involves more than one change. All options from Sunderland seem to involve going via Newcastle.

Am I right to assume that buying rail tickets online is simple enough? I didn't see anything about reserving a place on the train for my bike. I imagine arriving at Leeds Station on my bike with ticket I bought online but what should happen next? Would I just wheel my bike to the normal ticket barrier, go to the right platform then find the guards van when the train arrives? A lift might be better that stairs. When the train arrives where on the train are bikes usually transported? Is it likely that I will be refused transport of my bike?

What's your experience and advice?

Will
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Re: The basics of taking a bike on a UK train

Postby Will » 22 Apr 2011, 1:47pm

You can use any train operators web-site to book trains run by another operator. The East Coast Trains web-site (http://www.eastcoast.co.uk/) is the only one that I am aware of that has the facility to book space for bikes.

It is also a good idea to check the engineering work planned on the day that you are travelling, as it may involve the use of replacement buses for part of the journey (and you will not be allowed to take the bikes on the bus). Network Rail have a web-site that allows you to view planned engineering work (http://www.networkrail.co.uk/aspx/761.aspx). The only way that you will be able to get Whitehaven is via Carlisle (as there is engineering work on between Arnside and Burrow-in-Furness).

You bike will go in the carriage with the bike symbol on the door. Spaces are limited, and you should definitely book a place as you will probably not be allowed on with your bike if the spaces are already taken.

Will

cycloret
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Re: The basics of taking a bike on a UK train

Postby cycloret » 22 Apr 2011, 2:13pm

Thanks Will.
On the East Coast Trains website, I didn't find where there's the option to reserve a place for my bike.
Is the carriage with the bike symbol on the door at the end of the train or can it be anywhere? If so, is there a way to know where to stand on the platform before the train arrives?
Is there anything I need to know about security and protecting my bike for the trip? Is it just a matter of wheeling it onboard and resting it against the wall of the carriage?

Barrenfluffit
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Re: The basics of taking a bike on a UK train

Postby Barrenfluffit » 22 Apr 2011, 2:46pm

On east coast the bike option is only available at the seat booking stage ( it might be under extra?advanced? options ).

Where the bike accommodation is varies by train. On intercity routes you ask the platform staff, there may be signs if not available. Otherwise the cycle accommodation may have a sign or be painted on the carriage by the appropriate exit. It helps then if you can see the train going past before it stops; i.e stand in the right place. But if all else fails get on the train; its not your fault.

Will
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Re: The basics of taking a bike on a UK train

Postby Will » 22 Apr 2011, 2:57pm

You can normally book a bike space when you have selected your train and are at the bit to book your seat. It would appear that you cannot book a seat from Leeds to carlisle, or from carlisle to Whitehaven, and hence you cannot book a bike space. You can book a seat from Sunderland to Leeds, and the option to book a bike is available on that train. You will probably have to phone up to book the bike spaces to get to Whitehaven.

The location of the bike spaces varies by train type. I normally just stand around the middle of where the train comes in, and look out for the symbol on the door as the train comes in. If there is a member of staff on the platform, you can ask them.


If the train is busy, then it is a good idea to get on as quick as you can as the space for bikes often has fold down seats that can be used when the space is not being used for bikes. People have a habit of sitting on these seats when there are plenty of other seats available, and are reluctant to move. They also often put large pieces of luggage in the space - The guards are usually pretty good at getting people to move, especially if you have booked a space for your bike.

You may want to take a strap or bungee cord to stop your bike moving.

Will

Will
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Re: The basics of taking a bike on a UK train

Postby Will » 22 Apr 2011, 3:22pm

Another useful site is the National Rail wesite: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/

Here you can view a map of the stations, and identify the location of lifts and ramps.

Will

Malaconotus
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Re: The basics of taking a bike on a UK train

Postby Malaconotus » 22 Apr 2011, 3:39pm

Northern, off-peak, like Transpennine, are very bike-friendly. If you can make a seat reservation on these services you can also make a bike reservation, but only over the phone and not online. (As I understand it, you can't make a reservation even using East Coast online, as the reservations for bikes are not web-enabled at the Northern Rail end. Happy for someone to corect me on this.)

I recommend making ticket and bike reservations together over the phone, having used the web to choose your journey at the best price. Remember to break your journey into stages and look to see if separate tickets for each leg are much cheaper. (e.g. I found one ticket Leeds to Lancaster to be much more expensive than tow tickets Leeds to Manchester and then Manchester to Lancaster, even though the journeys were identical in practice.)

All Northern and Transpennine services have at least two bike spaces. These are in carriage and not in a guard's van. Ask on the platform which end they are likely to be and/or look for the cycle symbol on the door. There are three storage systems in use that I have seen. (1) Empty space under luggage racks in a luggage/toilet corridor at one end of a carriage, usually the carriage directly behind the driver. (2) Two 'hanging spaces' for bikes at either end of a central carriage. There's a knack to these; push the bike up and into the space in a single movement with your knee under the seat, the back wheel is held between rails and the front wheel hangs on a sturdy rubberised metal hook. (3) Against a bank of four flip-up seats at one end of a carriage. You may not be able to use the third type, which is what is used York - Leeds - Manchester, in rush hour when those flip-up seats are in demand.

I second the recommendation to carry a luggage strap and a bungee as the straps provided often don't secure the bike particularly well, especially in scenario 3, above.

IME, you'd be extremely unlucky not to get your bike on unless you were travelling into Leeds, York, or Manchester during morning rush-hour. Theoretically they can be denied on the way out again in the evening but I've often found room on services when bikes can be denied.

Contrary to the experience of some, especially in the south I think, I've found taking my bike on the train to be easy and hassle-free, and I've made dozens of journeys with Northern, Transpennine, Virgin and Chiltern in the last year. Station and train staff have been universally pleasant and helpful in response to courteous questions and the effort to make reservations when and where possible.

Graham

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horizon
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Re: The basics of taking a bike on a UK train

Postby horizon » 22 Apr 2011, 3:56pm

When the History of Madness finally gets to be written, taking a bike by train will have a chapter specially reserved for it: the both comic and chilling tale of how the lunatics took over the asylum and how the sane few ingeniously and courageously circumvented their madness, ignored the "rules" and got through with their cycles. An Ealing comedy in the making.
Let's just get Brexit done so that we can get on with the important job of re-joining the EU!

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horizon
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Re: The basics of taking a bike on a UK train

Postby horizon » 22 Apr 2011, 4:02pm

Malaconotus wrote:Contrary to the experience of some, especially in the south I think, I've found taking my bike on the train to be easy and hassle-free, and I've made dozens of journeys with Northern, Transpennine, Virgin and Chiltern in the last year. Station and train staff have been universally pleasant and helpful in response to courteous questions and the effort to make reservations when and where possible.

Graham


My "best" was when I complained to a train manager about the filthy state of the carriage. She replied:

"You've got a bicycle on this train, haven't you? Have you got a reservation? If you haven't I'm going to have to ask you to remove it if more than two cyclists get on at a later station."

This was Cross Country.
Let's just get Brexit done so that we can get on with the important job of re-joining the EU!

The Mechanic
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Re: The basics of taking a bike on a UK train

Postby The Mechanic » 22 Apr 2011, 4:29pm

I have booked two train journeys for my Way of the Roses ride in June. Aberdeen to Lancaster and Bridlingtom to Aberdeen via Doncaster. I booked the train tickets on the Train Line website and then phoned up to book the bike. It was all very painless. You don't get a ticket for the bike but you do get a booking number. That is your right of passage. When I traveled from Spean Bridge to Aberdeen last year the guard had a clipboard with my number on it.

The only risk I have is that you can't book seats or bike spaces on the Brid to Donnie section so will have to fight off any other cyclists on the platform. HPx pump should be handy for this (only joking). It is a straight through train rather that change at Hull so at least only one risk. I also discovered that two single tickets are often cheaper than a return. How daft is that?

Handy tip No.1: if the bike space is the hang by the front wheel type, take your bottles with you. I left one on my bike last year and it left a big puddle on the floor - must have leaked or something :roll: . The guard was not best pleased. The next train from Glasgow to Aberdeen was nice and dry, some people have no pride in their workplace.
Cancer changes your outlook on life. Change yours before it changes you.

cidermartin
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Re: The basics of taking a bike on a UK train

Postby cidermartin » 22 Apr 2011, 6:13pm

I had a long conversation with a train driver whilst sat on a train to Cornwall. He said that train managers are supposed to apply the company policy of, say, two cycles only. The problem of allowing more than the allocated cycles on his train only becomes acute when an 'inspector' boards the train to inspect how it is being 'managed' by the manager. If on the aforementioned two-cycle train the inspector finds, horror of horrors, three (or even more) bikes he is reprimanded/blackmarked or whatever.

This was obviously ignored on one single-unit train I boarded in the summer: the guard allowed eight bikes on!

I frequently book a space on a train for my cycle, most of my tours start off this way. I always wonder what would happen (and I feel sure it will one day) if I attempt to board a train with my bike and its reservation only to find all the spaces are taken. Presumably the train manager should, in theory, ask the owners of the unreserved bikes to remove them? (Could he actually locate the owners?) Importantly, if the manager was to not permit me to board the train with my bike what would I do? What does the train company have to do? How should I word my response to this hypothetical question? (Bearing in mind that a complete holiday could be ruined with missed connections and etc.)

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horizon
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Re: The basics of taking a bike on a UK train

Postby horizon » 22 Apr 2011, 7:21pm

cidermartin wrote:Importantly, if the manager was to not permit me to board the train with my bike what would I do? What does the train company have to do? How should I word my response to this hypothetical question? (Bearing in mind that a complete holiday could be ruined with missed connections and etc.)


Let's just start from the beginning: let's say it's you and your two children. Now what?
Let's just get Brexit done so that we can get on with the important job of re-joining the EU!

Malaconotus
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Re: The basics of taking a bike on a UK train

Postby Malaconotus » 22 Apr 2011, 10:35pm

cidermartin wrote:I frequently book a space on a train for my cycle, most of my tours start off this way. I always wonder what would happen (and I feel sure it will one day) if I attempt to board a train with my bike and its reservation only to find all the spaces are taken. Presumably the train manager should, in theory, ask the owners of the unreserved bikes to remove them? (Could he actually locate the owners?) Importantly, if the manager was to not permit me to board the train with my bike what would I do? What does the train company have to do? How should I word my response to this hypothetical question? (Bearing in mind that a complete holiday could be ruined with missed connections and etc.)


I've wondered the same thing. I think the train manager is going to take the easy route and allow three bikes. His only other choice is to track down the owner of one of the others and chuck him and his bike off. Not worth the aggro for all but the most jobsworthy, I would have thought.

Malaconotus
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Re: The basics of taking a bike on a UK train

Postby Malaconotus » 22 Apr 2011, 10:38pm

The Mechanic wrote:The only risk I have is that you can't book seats or bike spaces on the Brid to Donnie section so will have to fight off any other cyclists on the platform.


Or ride up to Bempton and get on before them (unless they've come from Scarborough) I rode on to Flamborough Head and Bemton Cliffs RSPB on my coast-to-coast and got the train back from Bempton.

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Cunobelin
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Re: The basics of taking a bike on a UK train

Postby Cunobelin » 23 Apr 2011, 7:17am

Unfortunately they do refuse access for any reason.

Over the years I have been refused because of suitcases, people or refreshments trolleys being in the allocated bike space. When I did the Hadrians Wall route and wanted to get to Ravenglass, I was refused access to three consecutve trains because they were "too full" to allow a bike on.

The girl in the ticket office got fed up with my repeated request for a bike reservation on the next train.

Equally we have friends locally who have to plan in advance as they used to travel as parents with three kids. That is now a minimum of two separate journeys and in the Summer, the eldest (now 16) often had to travel alone to get all 5 to a destination.


To cap it all the new SouthWest Trains leaflets now state that bikes must be folded and placed in a luggage rack. THe only ones available being overhead... difficult and too small even for a Brompton,so an effective ban!

BIkes and trains are natural partners, but their gradual removal has been allowed to happen.