Bikes on Trains – a letter from RCC Member John Sharpe


I read your article about bikes on trains in the winter newsletter [Take your bike on a train – Reading Cycle Campaign]. Unfortunately booking your bike on a train is no guarantee that there will be space for it.

A friend of mine was booked onto a sleeper from Scotland and had booked a space for his bike too. When he got onto the train he found that there were boxes of fish in the cycling space and he was told he couldn’t take his bike on the train. Since he needed to go back south for work the next day he refused to take his bike off and was eventually allowed to keep his bike in the sleeping compartment.

Sue and I booked our bikes onto a train at the start of a cycling touring holiday in France. Halfway there we had to change trains and found that on the connecting train there were already bikes in the storage compartment. We were told that we couldn’t take our bikes on the train as despite our booking the spaces were already full. We explained that we had a cabin booked on a ferry and we wouldn’t be able to
make it if we got off the train so I refused. The train operative then threatened to call the police to have me thrown off the train.

Having come from a railway family I knew just how much disruption it would cause to hold the train in the station. So I told her that if that was what she needed to do then she should do so but who knew if and when the police would show up, especially as we had tickets and bookings for the train and she could explain to her bosses just why the line was blocked for the intervening period. She knew straight away that her bluff had been called and decided to allow us to keep the bikes in the empty luggage space until room in the bike rack became clear.

We’ve also found that on modern trains with the hooks on the ceiling, there isn’t room to get a mountain bike tyre in the hooks. If, like me, you’re quite large and have a large bike then there isn’t room for the bike to hang the bike, the trains are made by Hitachi so perhaps they fit the bikes Japanese people use. If you’re quite small like Sue she finds she can’t lift her bike onto the hook.

It was much simpler in the old days when you could just leave your bike in the guards van or in the space behind the engine on the 125 trains. It does put me off travelling with our bikes on a train especially when travelling with children. Travelling with a bike can be traumatic but with children and bikes it gets very hard.

It is fine on the Elizabeth line trains and the other types of trains when you can leave your bike in the door spaces. Although one issue to look out for is that the entrance to the platform changes on the line to London so you have to be ready to move your bike from side to side to let people on and off.

Here’s a picture of the particularly bad Hitachi trains used by GWR.

There should be an admission of failure to influence the railway operators to provide adequate services for cyclists and an action plan to prevent cycle unfriendly decisions being taken in the future. This should be addressed in the RBC Transport Strategy. These kinds of practical details of transport design have a significant impact on the ease of taking bikes on trains.

One key take away is that if you have booked a space and they try to throw you off because there is no space available, stand your ground.

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