Bikes on a Train

baffled_pete Posts: 13
edited January 2013 in Road general
Six of us plan to do our first cycling trip this year the C2C Whitehaven to Sunderland.

Looking into tranportation I have discovered there are restrictions on bike numbers on trains, for example Virgin three per train. We will be travelling from Kent so we are not close. How have those of you more experienced managed to travel in large groups by public transport, is it possible? Plus any other ideas or suggestions greatly appreciated.


  • thistle_
    thistle_ Posts: 7,138
    It might work out cheaper if you hire a van/minibus to get you to the start.
    Last year we hired a small van for £125 for a 10 day biking jolly.

    Once you get there, I think there are pickup services on the C2C route that will take you and your kit back to the start when you finish (and possibly carry your kit between stopover points).

    Regarding the trains, most modern trains have a minimum of 2 spaces per train, however they are often used for baggage storage and in my experience the train staff aren't very helpful if you can't got on even with a reservation.
    The bike storage on Virgin used to be at one end behind the cab so it might be less clogged up.
    If there's 6 of you, it would mean going on multiple trains.

    Going up the east coast might be better: ... ts/cycles/ says they can take 5 per train. Maybe if you booked all 5 spaces and dismantled one of the bikes into a bike bag you could all get on board?
  • declan1
    declan1 Posts: 2,470
    You can normally reserve a bike space on a train, so it might be an idea to work out when you'll be travelling and book it early. If you have more than about 3 or 4 bikes then the guard might not let you on depending on the size of the train.

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    I have no idea what's going on here.
  • andy 3654
    andy 3654 Posts: 183
    I work in a ticket office yes there are restrictions, not to be awkward its mainly for saftey to satisfy elf and safety.
    How many in the group? can you split up the group and try to book cycling space in advance.
  • Also you can't always reserve a space on a train. So I think some of the cross country routes don't allow you to book, but you can turn up and they will try pretty hard to get you on it, but if it is busy you may not get on...
  • This sounds like a low budget sequel starring samuel L jackson. :lol:
    The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns
    momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.
  • This sounds like a low budget sequel starring samuel L jackson. :lol:

  • richsieb
    richsieb Posts: 137
    Perhaps if you looked into Off peak train times they might be more lenient about them as it's not doing as much harm
  • daniel_b
    daniel_b Posts: 11,569
    Felt F70 05 (Turbo)
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  • Excellent! If the guard looks like SLJ I'll start quoting Ezekiel 25:17.
  • priory
    priory Posts: 743
    edited January 2013
    if all carry a survival bag and some tools then the bikes could be dismantled into the bag and called luggage, but the guard could still invoke his prerogative to chuck you off because I think you are only entitled to carry one bag that fits in the luggage rack and I suppose your bike plus panniers will stretch that. Such is the progressive attitude of the modern railways.

    Up to the late 1980's the guards van , which was often a shed on wheels at the back, was open to anything you cared to chuck in it . I never thought about whether I could get my bike on the train ,so a rail ticket was great for all trips with the bike at both ends. It seems amazing to me that the railways have been so keen to kill the cyclists off, but I think it is because profit as a percent of turnover is now the purpose of railways , not the provision of a useful service. providing space for 2 bikes per train is obviously a political sop. It makes commuting and impromptu trips impossible , particularly as booking in advance is required. So cyclists abandon the railways and then the train companies point to the empty cycle hooks . But if what they offer is crep it's no surprise that it's not used much.
    Raleigh Eclipse, , Dahon Jetstream XP, Raleigh Banana, Dawes super galaxy, Raleigh Clubman ... =slideshow
  • andy 3654
    andy 3654 Posts: 183
    Yes the 1980s were fantastic for the railways , from an enthusiast point of view. Don't get me wrong there is a lot about modern trains I don't like but I cannot abide the feeble and frankly wrong assumption made popular by the media at large that its only about profits and share holders.

    A recent investigation by an anti private franchise run railway journalists showed that for every £1 Railway companies take on avarage
    48p went to Network Rail
    17p staff cost
    17p maintenance + admin
    11p leasing the trains
    4p fuel/energy
    3p profit

    I would love there to be more spaces on trains for bikes but with the modern trains that arnt really fir for purpose which in most cases train companies have no other option to use we are stuck with them.
  • markos1963
    markos1963 Posts: 3,724
    We can't win on the trains. Not enough space for bikes, prams(or Argos trolleys as we call them), wheel chairs, dogs, twenty items of luggage. By the time we make enough space for all of that we are up to six carriages long before you all want double seats each and a table to put all your electronic gadgets on. Oh and after all of that you want low fares AND the subsidy cut from the tax payer.

    rant over :(
  • andy 3654
    andy 3654 Posts: 183
    Couldn't agree more Markos1963
  • Sorry that's bullsh*t Markos1963 and andy 3654, it's entirely achievable on the continent where they have double decker trains, decent infrastructure and much lower fares. What we need is full re-nationalisation of the railways and large investment. There are far too many people using cars and whilst that can in part be tackled by better cycling provision, it won't have much affect with our terrible over-priced rail network.
  • markos1963
    markos1963 Posts: 3,724
    d87francis wrote:
    Sorry that's bullsh*t Markos1963 and andy 3654, it's entirely achievable on the continent where they have double decker trains, decent infrastructure and much lower fares. What we need is full re-nationalisation of the railways and large investment. There are far too many people using cars and whilst that can in part be tackled by better cycling provision, it won't have much affect with our terrible over-priced rail network.

    Re nationalisation?!! You won't find anyone in the railway industry arguing against that one but do you really think with this Government or even 'New' Labour that will happen?
    People often give continental railways as an example of good practice but if you look more carefully at them you find that some have great intercity services and others have great local lines but rarely do they have both. Often they are a mix of private and public companies. Unfortunately the system we have here will never work in the favour of the passengers ( but John major never wanted that in the first place anyway)
  • andy 3654
    andy 3654 Posts: 183
    I am in favor of a truly privatized network but sadly what we have here is neither one or the other, it is actually closer to a national network than private.
    European railways also have the luxury of having the bigger clearance gauge so can run double Decker trains.
    And the current fare increases were thought and introduced by Labour to shift the cost away from the tax payer to the people that use it where as Europeans are heavily subsidized by their Government.
  • @markos1963 - Sadly with this government or 'New' Labour I don't see it happening as both are preaching neo-liberal ideals one party just slightly less extreme, but more confused (I constantly switch between who to hate the most, tories or 'new' labour for misleading the working class). Once we have solved the challenges elitism pose to democracy in this country perhaps we could move towards public ownership, however, current hegemonies, power structures and the lack of proportional representation really stifle reformism, making me think revolution is the easier solution; not that either would be simple.

    @andy 3654 - Good point about the bigger gauge however, the hypocrisy of any 'truly privatised' market somehow evades most Friedmanites and libertarians as there is always state or societal influence on markets. In a 'truly privatised' rail network would companies be allowed to lay track where they like?
  • andy 3654
    andy 3654 Posts: 183
    I doubt they would cause of all the planning laws to get around but they would have the freedom to invest properly in sufficient and modern rolling stock to cope with the demands. Unlike what we have now where we have old trains leased from companies that don't want to buy new trains as there are no new designs specifically for diesels that meet current EU emission laws.
  • Its years since I did the C2C, but I gave on the trains and used a car to get there and one of the organised shuttle systems to get back to the start.

    (Sorry, a bit long now...) On the general topic of 'bikes on trains', I've been doing this on and off for many years and have done so in several European countries. Britain lags far behind many other countries and, IMHO, the main problem is cultural or attitudinal.

    You *can* do it in this country...but it needs a fair bit of research, time, perseverance and, I'm sorry to say, thick skin.
    The East Coast company (and before that, Nat Express, GNER etc) has probably been the best with online booking, a fairly clear reservation system, acceptance of tandems and (I think) 5 bikes per train.

    But all is not well, even with East Coast...the storage area is now full of food wagons, the racks very cramped and while many of there staff are helpful, you do run into hostile ones (notably for me, at Newcastle). It's not always easy to identify which end of long trains you have to stand at (diff ends depending on diesel or electric!) and finding staff is not always easy. I was once on a train where 'delays caused by cyclists boarding' was announced at every stop...I wondered if it might have been better phrased 'delays caused by inadequate information'.

    A million times better in France, Germany, Denmark, NL etc though they do restrict bikes on some high speed services. On the trains where bikes are welcomed, the difference is that cycle commuting and cycle sport are just normal things to do.

    Like almost everyone I speak to, I'd prefer the railways were nationalised...not so much for political reasons but mainly for the integration of systems (as well as unifying all those dodgy colour schemes!). Wouldn't one set of rules for bikes on trains in every area be helpful?

    What can we do? Well, I have my suspicions that making it difficult is part of the plan, so whatever they do...we must keep using the trains where its possible...or like someone above said, they will deny the need....
  • Apart from the fact they generally don't need to make a profit, the continental networks have three significant advantages over ours;

    1) They were better - or entirely - controlled by their Governments during the initial phase of builds, whereas the Victorian system here was a complete free for all. Consequently their systems suffer less from a) silly or odd routes and b) complete lack of coherency between the old boundaries; for example, the LBSCR route is great unless you want to travel anywhere except London, Brighton, and South Coast. Similarly, the nonsense of London stations - all of them terminating, and none actually properly joined together meaning if you have to change at least once to get through the capital (not counting the Brighton-Bedford line, but even then you need to change at St Pancras and wander over to Kings Cross if you want to go to Cambridge, for example)

    2) Much of their system was simply removed from the map by the RAF and USAAF from 1943 onwards, hence they had to invest significantly in the network in the last 70 yrs, whereas we got to pay back the cost of said landscaping-with-prejudice to the Yanks for 60 years, and smashed the big four together into BR and spent a lot of money getting rid of stuff.

    3) They didn't have Beeching and the short sightedness of selling off all the old branch line (close it, by all means... selling the land was very short sighted in a country with a growing population)

    Related fact; The narrow gauge + low Victorian tunnels have been blamed as costing a lot of British lives during WW2 - all British Tanks up to the Centurion of 1945 were designed to fit on British rolling stock, and consequently were very narrow (compared with German stuff). This meant that the turret rings were small, and thus limited the size of the gun with could be fitted. Ultimate result of all of that is that all homegrown British tanks were chronically under-gunned - and therefore deathtraps in tank terms - until the Comet appeared in late '44.