Getting to the AGM in Belfast - April

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dave holladay
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Joined: 4 Apr 2007, 12:25pm

Getting to the AGM in Belfast - April

Postby dave holladay » 2 Jan 2008, 1:02am

I've looked at the ground transport options for getting to Belfast for CTC AGM in April, and note that the Fleetwood - Larne Stena-Line crossing has a lot going for it for those using rail services to reach the ferry port, with a second option of Norfolk-Line's Birkenhead - Belfast route, which requires bikes to be loaded on the baggage trailer and you ride on the port-side bus from ferry terminal to the berth. Both Preston and Liverpool have a large number of trains with rapid journey times from many parts of the UK (ie ample choice of bike spaces and times). The small fly in the ointment for Fleetwood is it seems the withdrawal of the overnight service for dates we want, and the absence of any category for cycle and foot passengers in their online booking system - they have advised that a cyclists group is booked for an April crossing.

Fleetwood is also quite convenient for driving, as it is at the end of the M55, which connects directly North and South-bound onto the M6 at Preston (well nearer Garstang) and as an example, you can travel practically all the way from CTC Office in Guildford to Fleetwood on motorway standard dual carriageways maintaining a steady speed, with no need to stop at any junction or traffic signals, to get good fuel economy. Birkenhead is also reasonably linked to the M56 and M53

This message board posting, could offer the oppportunity to ensure every car heading for Belfast is carrying the optimum number of members and their cycles, with the opportunity to arrange link-ups at Motorway Service areas, which generally have access from obscure back lanes or even housing estates (like Harthill), and can usually be cycled to from the a nearby rail station, I know I've used most of them when hitch hiking with the Brompton. Drivers might also arrange to call-in at a rail station to offer a contingency for anyone who cannot get on the local trains with a bike, or ride (eg Preston or Lancaster to Fleetwood) and also offer an alternative to riding in from Larne to Belfast, in place of taking your chance on the train service having enough bike space*. Initially please consider this a basic sounding, to see what the demand is for ride-sharing, and getting from Larne to Belfast

Overnight/long crossings from Birkenhead or Fleetwood also offer an opportunity for social interaction if those travelling know of others using the same service - Slide show anyone??. There is generally a supplement for a compulsory recliner seat or cabin on most overnight sailings, but some services do include meals in the fare price (The ability to match truck drivers, portion for portion on the Stena Harwich - Hook service is the 'stuff' of legend)

* Translink, who run buses coaches and trains in Ulster, have been known to lay on a van to carry bikes when local pensioner cycling groups use their free public transport facility to catch a coach out to a more distant location for a bike ride, if an idea of numbers is available, it may be possible to set something up for specific sailings.

The theoretical capacity of trains to Stranraer, and the poor connections with some sailings, makes the P&O Troon-Larne service a better option - saving time and offering a half-hourly train service from Glasgow. P&O carry cyclists at Foot Passenger fares - and don't have any additional bike charges - this is not very clear from their Irish Sea webpages (we have told them!). You can however take bikes on the Carlisle-Dumfries-Stranraer and Edinburgh-Glasgow-Stranraer coach services operated by Stagecoach and Scottish Citylink/Ulsterbus and there are also Ulsterbus services from London (1@day) and Birmingham/Manchester/Preston (2@day), as I understand things they carry bikes which are folded or dismantled and in suitable bags or cases - much the same way as National Express. Advance notice is advisable - let me know if there is an interest after looking at the websites.

That's the initial stab at things - post your offer or request in a reply to this message and I'll see what things look like.

simon l6 and a bit

Postby simon l6 and a bit » 6 Jan 2008, 9:55pm

From London
the choices appear to be
1. Fly. Cheap as chips and quick. As of today, Easyjet will sell me a ticket, and convey the bike, for £103 return. The flight from Gatwick is about an hour. I could even go up on the morning of the 26th, which is a Saturday.
2. Train to Liverpool on the Friday (25th) and take the overnight ferry to Belfast. Return Sunday morning, but it's an all day trip. Train fare to Liverpool likely to be about £40 return if booked well in advance (but Virgin are not taking bookings yet) and the ferry is going to be about £55 return, more if I want a bed on the outward trip.
3. Train to Stranraer on the Friday, leaves Euston at 10.29 , and an evening ferry to Belfast. Fare likely to be £48 if booked well in advance (but, again, Virgin are not taking bookings yet) and the ferry is about £46. Unbelievably the return rail journey is via Glasgow, and takes about nine hours.
4. The train and ferry combo - up via Stranraer and an overnight return from Belfast to Liverpool. Virgin's cheap fares are singles.
5. London to Holyhead, then fast ferry to Eire, train from Dublin to Belfast. Only interesting if you want to see a bit of Ireland.

There are trains to Stranraer from Newcastle, Carlisle and Glasgow.

I'm sorry to say that I'll probably fly.... :cry:

dave holladay
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Joined: 4 Apr 2007, 12:25pm

Postby dave holladay » 8 Jan 2008, 2:24pm

Flying is indeed an option and the selection of choices generous - so it would be mighty hard to cover every option, and there are 2 airports to add to the permutations. Remember that there are only a few really cheap offers and you have to travel to an airport. That adds time and cost.

We noted the possibility of a social element to travelling as well as the event, with the important factor of highlighting ground-based travel options for those who consciously seek to avoid flying, as these are often less well promoted. On boats and trains you can do all sorts of things you cannot do on a plane..... The Friday night sailing from Birkenhead sounds a possibility - but Norfolk Line will need to know of the large number of cyclists wanting to travel in good time. I'll check whether the morning HSS from Troon offers a good connection from overnight sleeper to Carlisle and 06.00 train via Dumfries

Flying with a bike is also likely to be a fraught affair, given the continuous changes in what you can take on the plane and how - some airlines are positively making it very difficult to take anything which isn't a suitcase - either by price (Ryanair charges £50/flight for surfboards or blockade - BA's current policy makes it necessary to send assembled bikes as air cargo/through baggage contractor).

That said I'm building up a portfolio of carriers who provide the facilities to move between EU member states, as an island state cannot offer the ability to walk or cycle across - there may be a challenge to ferry (and rail operators) who don't offer a pedestrian/cycle access from port to port - eg Ramsgate-Oostende, or Liverpool-Dublin. There may be an opportunity to challenge the crossings which are not open as failing to deliver the ethos of EU free movement of labour etc. - more later.


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Joined: 19 Jan 2007, 12:10pm

Postby alr1970 » 14 Mar 2008, 3:04pm

I took the Larne-Fleetwood route back from NI last summer, travelling by car with family, and have a few observations that may be helpful.

We travelled overnight, when a cabin is mandatory, and supper (and breakfast if you get up fast enough) included in the price.

Note that this service is really a truck ferry, (just like the Riverdance...) and carries a lot of HGV trailers, as well as whole HGVs and a few cars and vans. There were about 5 cars, a van and a motorbike on our crossing, but the ferry was almost full. They do not carry foot passengers: there's no terminal at Larne where this ferry berths, you just sit on the quayside until ready to board. We did have access to the terminal for other Larne services, but is was some walk from where we were parked waiting. It was quite a wait, they insist on a 2 HOUR checkin, then you wait until all the lorries are in so they can find space to squeeze the cars in.

On board it had a real old style ferry atmosphere, and they were very welcoming to our small children (ages 3&4). I would never consider taking children on this route by day, there is absolutely nothing to do on board but look at the sea, eat and drink (there's a bar). By night they found it great adventure, the cabins & all.

Cabins were very comfy. The ship we travelled on had only 2 berth cabins, some have 4 berth too. This was a pair of beds, side by side, with a tiny en-suite shower, and a porthole. Not at all like I used to travel in as a child. The ferry was due in at 6, but they came round and woke everyone up at 5, grrrrrr.

The food was good, they're set up for feeding hungry truckers, so we made not a dent in it. 40 hungry cyclists might have a better chance though.

I think I'd recommend it, especially given how handy it is for so much of N England. We landed at 6, and I had time to go home (in Manchester) before going to work the day we arrived.

Finally, the sailings are tide dependent, so you may not know the exact time of departure until a couple of days before you travel. They rang us up with this info.


Dan Joyce
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Joined: 2 Feb 2007, 1:41pm

Postby Dan Joyce » 4 Apr 2008, 6:10pm

For anyone wanting to travel to Belfast by train and ferry rather than flying, I'd second the advice at to check out RailSail. See the website for routes. You'll need to phone to make a booking: 08450 755 755. The person I spoke to was very helpful.

I'm travelling from Scarborough to Holyhead, ferry to Dublin, train to Belfast, return. With separate tickets, that would cost £168 - breaking down £86 (UK train), £46 (ferry), and £36. By RailSail, it's £72.40 for the whole trip - less than half price.

Had I been travelling only to Holyhead by train (and back), I'd have still saved £13.60 by getting a RailSail ticket all the way to Belfast and using neither the ferry portion nor the Irish train portion. It's a funny old world.

Pleasingly, it's not more expensive for me than flying - even though Ryanair would have sold me tickets for 1 pence plus airport taxes from Liverpool to Belfast (£20 total, return), once you factor in either a return train/bus/taxi journey to the airports or the petrol plus car parking charges for a car journey.

It still takes a bit longer to make the whole journey, but at least there isn't the sensation of being fleeced compared to flying!

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Simon L6
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Postby Simon L6 » 6 Apr 2008, 12:10pm

I'd love it if flying were the most expensive option, but, in my case, it's the cheapest.

The same story in Europe. I went to Venice by train last year - it was four times the price of the flight. Our office party is in Poznan. The firm can hire a jet, and get us to Poznan for a fraction of the rail fare. Depressing, but true.