Bikes on trains

2016-09-14-17-16-48One of the big complaints amongst cyclists in the UK is about bikes on trains.  I have been undertaking an internship with a view to rebooting my career, which involves cycle/train/long cycle.  People here think getting bikes on trains is a real problem and everyone I have talked to asks me if I have any problem getting my bike on the train.  However both from my experience and talking to other people this is much less of a problem than you would think and much less of a problem than in Europe.

The whole Eurostar row broke just before I cycled to Paris for the climate talks.  Eurostar wanted cyclists to partly dismantle their bikes to put them in the carriage.  They already wanted to you wrap them up in a box or a bag if taking them on borad yourself (and probably still do) after dropping the dismantling idea after much protest from cyclists all over Europe.  But Eurostar have a fairly European attitude to bikes.  You can send your bike as freight on the train (which we did on the way back from Paris).  The bikes were not damaged and were waiting for us in London.  However you cannot do this part route only to and from London/Brussels/Paris.  This idea is again fairly typically continental European.  Bikes on SNCF we found many years ago do not necessarily go on the same train as you.  For us one way this involved the extra cost of a hotel whilst we waited for our bikes to catch up with us.  (And the bike was damaged a bit on arrival).  Talking to one of my fellow Paris cyclists the situation in Germany is the same.

Then the commuting situation is not great either.  We discovered we could not take our bikes on the RER years ago (although the situation has changed I think)*.  Certainly in Paris last November I checked and we could not take our bikes on trains during peak commuting hours.  Whilst I can understand this at one level, surely this is the most useful time for most people?

Contrast this with here.  Getting me bike to London on my way to Paris and out to Surrey to start cycling was easy.  Virgin East Coast do not charge for carrying bikes.  When you book your ticket you simply add it in as an option (some other operators do charge on inter city).  The bike goes in the guards van with you.  I was effusive with my thanks on social media.  Getting the bike out to Surrey was as easy as putting it in the right carriage on the commuting train.  Here Scotrail make commuting with bikes easy, its free and on my train whilst there is a designated bike area you can put them by any door.  So far its been no hassle and lots of us do the same every day.  If only I could say the same for the cycle at the other end…


*Farcically on the way out we did somehow get away with it.  One the way back they refused which led to us cycling through the streets of Paris- a terrifying experience repeated last November (2015) and no better for the provision of the velibs and cycle lanes.  This led to a whole series of adventures 20 odd years ago which involved a puncture, an attempted mugging, my wife thinking she had lost the stone in her engagement ring, had all her cards stolen etc.  None of which turned out to be the case…


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