Article by Chris & Sue Marshall on their experiences of taking bikes on trains, which may be of use to other members.
Having just started doing this in 2011 we thought that other members may be interested in our experiences which were very positive.
- It can be very cheap: Manchester to Taunton £18.50, Portsmouth to Manchester £15.50 (with senior railcard -1/3 off).
- These are available from 11 to 12 weeks ahead of travel date. Don't get before that, you'll pay full price!
- Do your research on the internet first to find the cheapest tickets to suit your needs. The more flexible you are the cheaper it's likely to be. We found the East Coast Trains site the best for all routes, but all the companies have them plus Trainline nd others.
- Try all combinations to get the cheapest total. i.e. A to B, B to C, C ot D, A to C, A to D and B to D etc. There is no rule. Ardrossan to Nelson was cheaper than Ard. to Glasgow plus Glasgow to Preston plus Preston to Nelson, yet Whalley to Taunton was loads more than Whalley to Manchester plus Manchester to Taunton. Generally returns are not cheaper.
- Once you've found the best trian(s), go straight to Nelson Station and buy them PLUS your bike reservations. You can't seem to be able to reserve bikes on the website and this means you get all your tickets in your hand immediately - same trains will be same price, (if your quick enough).
- Bikes are always free (except Eurostar £22) but mainline services you MUST reserve, branch lines you CAN'T. Although trains have a low limit on number of bikes they carry you won't have a problem 11 weeks ahead.
- If you have a choice, its best to board and/or leave trains at start or terminus of route. This means you have plenty of time to load/unload bikes, and then go back for panniers/topboxes. If this is not the case, make sure you are standing in the right place on the platform (station staff should know - there is a sign at Preston for Virgin Trains).
- After boarding, you are asked to contact the Train Manager so he knows where you're getting off, particularly Virgin as he/she has tp unlock the door for you (there may br Virgin stall on the platform to do this if you have reservations).
- The arrangement for storing bikes varies according to rolling stock and Rail Company. Virgin Pendolino is horizontal storgae at either end of train, Cross Country is vertical (front wheel hanger) elsewhere but at least you can open the doors yourself!
- Your reserved seats may not be adjacent to bikes, but if there are free seats nearer, use them.
- For non-reservable trains, you can use any train but try to avoid the rush-hour. One train from Preston was packe aith people and had 9 bikes and 3 push chairs at one point, which the guard would be entitled to refuse (2 or 3 is official max.) but fortunately he didn't - he just hid in his cab the whole journey and left us to sort ourselves out! Also some old stock (Ardrossan/Glasgow) doesn't have long enough space to fir a bike - fortunately all stops are on samw side so you can angle them in the opposite doorway. If in doubt ask the guard?train manager.
For further information on cycles on trains, visit the National CTC website www.ctc.org.uk
By chris and Sue Marshall.