If you’re thinking of taking your bike on a train from Reading, the advice from the GWR website is to check with the train operator first.
Not particularly helpful.
Reading Station is served by Great Western Railway (GWR), CrossCountry, South Western Railway (SWR) and the Elizabeth line (Lizzie Line).
As advised by GWR I checked each of these operators.
Cycles can be carried free of charge, although restrictions apply. You need to make a reservation up to two hours before the train leaves the station from where it is starting – or at any time before your train arrives – depending on where you look for guidance. 😊
Of course, spaces are limited, so you should book as early as you can:
- in the booking section of an online account at https://myaccount.gwr.com/MyAccount/SignIn
- when you book your tickets online (you can do this on Trainline)
- by calling 0345 7000 125 (08:00 to 20:00 daily)
- at your local staffed ticket office
If you need assistance, you can message GWR on Twitter @GWRHelp, Facebook Messenger @GWRUK or on WhatsApp at 07890 608043.
Bike reservations are again free and should be made before you travel. Bikes can be booked via Twitter (@crosscountryuk), Facebook Messenger (www.facebook.com/ Crosscountrytrains) or you can reserve a bike space at a station prior to travel.
On most of the CrossCountry trains there are two reservable bike spaces and one further space for unreserved bikes. Bikes without a reservation are accepted on a first come, first served basis. If you have a folding bike, they request that you fold these up and place them in luggage racks. Customers travelling with e-bikes (not exceeding 250 watts) must be able to lift and stow their bikes into the luggage racks provided…
SWR claim to “love to welcome cyclists and their bikes”, but other than information on the number of spaces per train and a handy map showing restrictions during peak weekday travel times, I couldn’t see how to book a bike on a particular train. The only exception to this is the London Waterloo to Salisbury/Exeter train, where you must reserve a space for your bike:
- When you book your ticket online
- At any staffed station
- By contacting our Customer Service Centre at https://www.southwesternrailway.com/contact-and-help/contact-us
- And to book at least 24 hours before you travel.
If you want to travel to London, this is probably your best option, and you don’t need to book.
Non-folded cycles are allowed Monday to Friday on trains:
- Arriving at Liverpool Street (from the direction of Shenfield) before 07:30 and after 09:30
- Leaving Liverpool Street (towards Shenfield) before 16:00 and after 19:00
- Arriving at Paddington (from the west) before 07:30 and after 09:30
- Leaving Paddington (towards the west) before 16:00 and after 19:00
- Between Paddington and Abbey Wood before 07:30, 09:30-16:00 and after 19:00
- Weekends and bank holidays: Anytime
You cannot change onto the Tube with non-folded cycles at some Elizabeth line stations:
- Tottenham Court Road for the Central or Northern lines
- Bond Street for the Jubilee line
- Paddington for the Bakerloo line
- Liverpool Street for the Central and Northern lines
- Stratford for the Central line
National Rail PlusBike
After all this jumping about on the train operator websites, I came across the National Rail PlusBike information. This tells you about cycle facilities at stations, the number of spaces at stations and onboard, and other things that will be helpful to know for your specific trip.
PlusBike is available on National Rail’s website via the journey planner and as a phone app. Simply enter your plans into the journey planner and select a specific journey. Information on cycles is then provided. Plusbike claims that all the information is accurate and regularly updated by the station operators.
To see how PlusBike works, I planned a trip from Reading to Manchester:
A quick click on the bike icon brought up information on taking bikes on the trip. Plusbike claims to make it easy to see if, and when, you can take your bike on a certain service.
For more details, there is a PlusBike leaflet: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/static/images/content/PlusBike Foldout Leaflet_final version.pdf
Of course, you still need to book your bike on the train with the operator, but at least you know how many spaces are available and who to contact.
The best option would seem to be to use the Trainline App. Like PlusBike you can search for your single or return journey in the journey planner and then look for the bike icon in the search results. Clicking on the bike icon will show you how many bike spaces are available and whether a reservation is required.
You can reserve a bike space; however you must then collect the train tickets and a bike reservation coupon from a ticket machine at the station.
You can see Trainline’s advice on taking bikes on trains here: https://www.thetrainline.com/trains/great-britain/bikes-on-trains#policies
Trainline also has a handy list showing which train companies require a bike reservation.
In summary it’s a bit of a minefield – the information is all available, but you need to do your research and book. Trainline seems to be the easiest one-stop source and benefits from allowing you to book your train ticket with your bike reservation online, although you still need to collect a bike coupon from the station ticket machine or office.
Whichever way you book, remember to watch out for rail-replacement buses, which do not allow non-folding bicycles on them at any time.
If you have experience of taking your bike on a train, let us know how you got on. I once jumped on a quiet train at a rural unattended station and came off in Reading. No booking. No fuss. Just lucky!