Don't take bikes on trains for Tour de France, say rail companies

Normal cycle policies will apply on rail network, without reservation you could be disappointed

by Simon_MacMichael   April 18, 2014  

Catherine Murphy ' Waiting at the Station'

If you’re thinking about taking your bike with you to watch the Tour de France in July but need to take a train for part of the journey, you may have to rethink your plans – it could be more hassle than it’s worth.

Train operators are asking people to avoid travelling with bikes during the three days the race is in the UK, and advise that those who have not reserved a space in advance, an option usually only available on some inter-ciy trains, may end up being disappointed and have to take a later service than the one they planned.*

With around a million people expected to watch each of two stages in Yorkshire and the one that runs from Cambridge to London, train services are expected to be much busier than usual.

Additional long-distance trains will be scheduled and more carriages added to some existing services.

However, no extra provision is being made for those wanting to bring their bicycles and normal rules on the carriage of bikes will apply, says the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC).

That means that folding bikes will be allowed – so folding bikes should be allowed, but it’s probably best to check in advance.

ATOC adds that information on local trains in the areas the race passes through will be announced next month.

Conrad Haigh, head of integrated transport at the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: “The Tour de France coming to Britain is a great occasion and train operators have worked hard with the organisers to ensure that as many people as possible can get to the event by train.

“Operators will keep their usual cycle carriage policies in place but passengers need to be aware that the demand for space will be much higher.

“As well as people who normally travel, more will be using the train to avoid road closures and there will be thousands of Tour spectators so many services will be very busy.

“Cyclists are being asked to take a sensible approach and avoid bringing a bike on any train that might be busier than usual because of the Tour de France but, if it’s unavoidable, they should allow extra time to make their journey.”

You can find more details about taking bikes on trains on the National Rail Enquiries website, or in the National Rail Cycling by Train leaflet.

The picture accompanying this article, called Waiting at the Station by Catherine Murphy, was one of the joint winners of the photographic competition at the 2013 Cycle-Rail Awards, organised by ATOC.

* Correction: The original version of this article suggested that those who have booked in advance might not be able to get on the train they have reserved with their bike. This is not in fact the case.

23 user comments

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This reminds me of the time when Everton played Liverpool at Wembley for some football match and faced with the prospect of 50 000 extra customers Virgin Trains actually cancelled services to discourage people from using the train.

I chuckled at the line "Cyclists are being asked to take a sensible approach"
Cyclist asked to take a sensible approach when the most sensible approach would for these useless train companies to run extra trains.
"Bring Back The Goods Van" i say!

posted by Some Fella [740 posts]
18th April 2014 - 11:10

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In light of this and the increasing popularity of bikes, now would be a great time for the train companies to review how they treat customers with bikes. Some of the provisions and design of bike storage on trains is woeful. If a cyclist doesn't drive for whatever reason, then taking a bike on the train is the only option for long distances.

posted by esayers [21 posts]
18th April 2014 - 11:33

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Disappointing, never had a problem with my bike on French trains when the tour has been on...

posted by briano 55 [15 posts]
18th April 2014 - 11:51

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The train companies have worked very hard to ensure bikes are not taken on trains. They don't see it as part of their transport integration strategy. They expect people to have 2 bikes, and to leave them at the station.
They are idiots. There is massive potential for growth if they weren't so blinkered.

posted by Mart [98 posts]
18th April 2014 - 12:17

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I thought they expected you to leave your perfectly good bike at one station and them hire one of their heavy Dutch bike and go bikes from you're destination station?

Two bikes is clearly a non starter for commuters because insurance will refuse to cover bikes left at stations overnight.

posted by a.jumper [694 posts]
18th April 2014 - 13:05

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Would this be a good idea to raise the debate about the lack of inter-modality in this country?

What you have all failed to grasp is that public transport can only function properly in this country if it carries no passengers. Devil

posted by levermonkey [356 posts]
18th April 2014 - 13:23

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If you do one thing today (apart from actually ride your bike) i recommend you watch this

http://vimeo.com/2716712

(unless of course you are fiddling with your new wearable lactate threshold sensor - in which case you will probably not be interested)

posted by Some Fella [740 posts]
18th April 2014 - 13:37

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Mart wrote:
There is massive potential for growth if they weren't so blinkered.

Not that I disagree with you but:

1. They would rather you pay the extortionate charge for the car park at the front of the station.
2. Many mainlines are already running at near maximum capacity, so some operators do not have a lot of potential for growth until next schemes are complete.

posted by jackh [105 posts]
18th April 2014 - 14:39

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Some Fella wrote:
If you do one thing today (apart from actually ride your bike) i recommend you watch this

http://vimeo.com/2716712

(unless of course you are fiddling with your new wearable lactate threshold sensor - in which case you will probably not be interested)

AH, the days when CTC did things to help cyclists. Long since forgotten.

Not a helmet in sight. Those were the days....before I was born though Confused

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posted by Gkam84 [8786 posts]
18th April 2014 - 14:43

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"Rugby?! Who wants to go to Rugby?!"

posted by Meaulnes [37 posts]
18th April 2014 - 15:17

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One option to deliver crowds to York & Leeds at the weekend might be to run 12-coach commuter trains, available at weekends, from London (720 seats - probably 1200 rammed full), this would provide plenty of capacity, and these trains are cleared to run to York (where they were built). Only minor problem is that the guys who normally drive the trains only have route knowledge to Peterborough, and would need to be piloted the rest of the way. However using the commuter trains at weekends between London and York would be a neat way to deal with the overcrowding that happens on the long distance route at this time.

Typically you can get 18-20 bikes on the Class 365 (100mph) using bike space and doorways on side opposite to platforms (on FGW and FCC trains of this type with no formal bike space they have this in the ROGS safety case).

However, in 2007 we came up with a solution for Stage 1 in Kent - putting bikes, with wheels removed, in bags, or the CTC polythene sacks makes them smaller and flatter, and the bike then fit in luggage racks or between the seats (the bag stops the bike making things dirty). CTC got the approval for this from Southeastern Trains, and as most of the enthusiasts had bikes which could quickly have both wheels removed and packed into a bag, CTC simply sold their polythene sacks at London Bridge, and other riders use their own bags.

Perhaps a bit of tolerance from the rail operators would be a nice touch of goodwill - we'll pack the bikes down to fit the space available if you'll accept them in this form as luggage - well within the official allowance per passenger?

But there is another way, and one I've had on a slow burn over the years. Both National Express coaches and Megabus do carry bikes, but with that same constraint that the bike has to be "Dismantled or folded down and packed in a bag or case" ... "if space is available"

It is very likely that both operators will run duplicate coaches on services to York and Leeds this weekend, but a surge of bikes might be refused, and this could be the opportunity to use a reservation system to guarantee the space on the coach. With the high-floor (3.7-3.9m) integral bodied coaches, normally used, the hold space is substantial, even on a smaller (3.2m) version 35 bikes were put on a 49 seat coach.

If anyone wants to follow up on this can they 1) e-mail Stagecoach (Megabus) and National Express Customer Services and give them a measure of the demand to use their coach service with your bike to get to see le Tour in Yorkshire 2) contact me through CTC (cycling@) address, as I may need to find help & resources if this takes off (a special reservations system might be needed). National Express does have a system to reserve seats on open tickets and wheelchair spaces, the former for a small fee, and Megabus has a system to reserve the wheelchair spaces.

Failing the use of a scheduled service, there are some very nice executive coaches where 40-50 seats with tables etc replace 65-70 seats 'economy class' One of those could easily take a full complement of bikes & riders from a specific location to a point within cycling distance of where you want to see the ride pass by - depending on the distance and the driver's working hours the price per passenger for a filled coach would be £15-£20 for a day trip. For the weekend there may be a package deal an hotel that is closer than driving home. A few possible sources - check out the premium vehicles like the Neoplan Starliners that are often the choice for the Cycling team transport. Again if you have a potential group of 40-60 let me know and I'll see if a connection can be made with a suitable operator, or at least try to point people in the right direction.

I'll send Road CC some pictures to play with!

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

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posted by A V Lowe [480 posts]
18th April 2014 - 15:51

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Another classic example of Britain's woefully non-integrated transport system. Bet this doesn't happen on SNCF during Le Tour. I bet if they spent the money earmarked for HS2 on giving every commuter train in Britain a dedicated bike carriage, we would see a greater reduction in traffic than if the high speed line is built.

posted by Yennings [210 posts]
18th April 2014 - 16:35

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It really should not be beyond the wit of man to be able to run a few 'cycle specials' outside of peak hours to and from major cities on the days immediately before and after the tour weekend.
Either a standard 8-coach with one or two cars swapped out for a goods van, or if the line is cleared for 12-coach trains as has been suggested, run a goods van on the back of some of the usual 8-coach services. Heck, they might even make a profit from it.

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posted by andyspaceman [216 posts]
18th April 2014 - 17:11

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Train company lunacy again. Their contempt for their customers is staggering.

posted by paulfg42 [374 posts]
18th April 2014 - 18:27

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That totally stuffs up my plans, I booked a favourite pub in Swaledale 18 months ago and planned to train from London - Leeds - Skipton with the wife and cycle the 35km to the pub. That will be about as far as she has ever cycled in her life so she's apprehensive.

What a complete lack of imagination, planning, forethought and opportunity grasping this is! I guess I'll have to train it and rent a car. Imagine if train operators actually supported cycling, it would be unstoppable.

posted by drmatthewhardy [303 posts]
18th April 2014 - 18:56

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It's this attitude of everyone pulling together for the greater good that really puts the Great in Great Britain...

KalaBlinds 'cos we all need our beauty sleep.

posted by don simon [140 posts]
18th April 2014 - 19:35

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don simon wrote:
It's this attitude of everyone pulling together for the greater good that really puts the Great in Great Britain...

Its been many years since Britain has been great and this is just one example of how the masses get treat like poop so a few CEO's get to line their pockets a bit more.

I'm surprised people are actually shocked by this article.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2696 posts]
18th April 2014 - 19:49

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Can I suggest someone do an AirBnB for TdF bike transport? Eg myself and three friends are driving up to Richmond, in separate vehicles at slightly different times for the weekend. Our car alone could fit four extra bikes on the roof. Imagine all the spare bike capacity headed north for that weekend. I'd be happy to carry other bikes in return for a suitable amount of Real Ale tokens. Actually, let's be honest: wine tokens for she who will have to put up with yet more bike malarkey.

There could be dropping off / collecting along the route somewhere if not too much faff. A bikeshop in Leeds or York or somewhere could make a ton of cash as intermediary between drivers and riders.

Off you go clever web peoples.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

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posted by KiwiMike [467 posts]
18th April 2014 - 20:41

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You can't blame them for failing to get a grip.
Public service organisations mature until they exist to perpetuate their protocols, procedures, and personnel.
It's no use imagining institutionalised management could adapt.
So, each time an organisation reaches that degree of maturity, get the garden shears out and hard prune the middle and senior management ....
And in the meantime, get a folder !

posted by simon.thornton [13 posts]
18th April 2014 - 21:27

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Surely this is leaving a wide open entrepreneurial opportunity for some bike-loving folks?

Racer 074 for the 2014 Transcontinental Race; 2,000 miles from London to Istanbul.

http://themartincox.co.uk/2014/03/racer-074-transcontinental-race-2014/

posted by themartincox [328 posts]
18th April 2014 - 21:33

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Integrated multi-modal travel? Beyond stupid.

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posted by dafyddp [145 posts]
18th April 2014 - 21:47

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It really should not be beyond the wit of man to be able to run a few 'cycle specials' outside of peak hours to and from major cities on the days immediately before and after the tour weekend.
Either a standard 8-coach with one or two cars swapped out for a goods van, or if the line is cleared for 12-coach trains as has been suggested, run a goods van on the back of some of the usual 8-coach services. Heck, they might even make a profit from it.

Unfortunately this is an idea from a bygone era. Trains haven't worked like that in 20 years or more. Better to contact the rail charter companies although it is a bit late for them to be getting train paths.

posted by oldfolky [15 posts]
18th April 2014 - 23:21

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Given that the train operators expect to be running extra trains anyway, just to carry the passengers to the event there remain a few issues. If everyone gets off a train quickly when it arrives it can then get clear of the platform and another train comes in to unload/load up.

Putting bikes into that equation is contentious a 1-2 minute stop for a major clearing of the train (stops are normally timed for 30-60 seconds of doors open - check the Working Timetables (WTT) and see the timings.

I know that with plenty of open door space you can load 100 bikes into a parcels carriage in under 5 minutes, but persuading the rail operator that this can be guaranteed, even if it can be shoe horned in to the time slots available, is unlikely to see them taking the risk of a timetable melt down

Then there is the problem having no National Body setting even a National standard for interoperability between train types over the past 66 years, if not longer. With the modern argument that trains should be tailored to the routes operated, so we don't have that flexibility to 'just add some parcels vans'. Even the nice red Royal Mail trains, which look so much like the Networker ones are totally incompatible with their passenger carrying 'twins'.

Rail timetables are planned 52 weeks in advance, with the settling of the plans at 26 weeks and final cut-off at 13 weeks, and only if an emergency arises or a very clear case made can that be changed.

I'd hope that some options can be accommodated for taking bikes which have been packed down in bags as luggage and simply carried on to be placed in the luggage racks pictures show P1000764 Bike in luggage rack (quick and simple) 3168 Bagged bike (fast -front wheel out only) and the CTC Bike sack folded to carry around in your bag and use as a groundsheet for the picnic) NB with back wheel out and bars turned it gets even smaller. If you are planning to do this, I'd suggest that the bike is in the bag and on a luggage trolley, when you walk in to the station, dismantling it and packing it in full view of the staff would not be very clever.

Do look at the options for using coaches - scheduled or charter one as a group, or maybe someone can get a trip underwritten by a sponsor. Do contact me if you are looking at this.

Note though that unless National Express of Megabus make special arrangements (in response to demand) to guarantee the carriage of your bike in a bag for this weekend, they will only carry it if there is space in the hold, or (Megabus) in the luggage trailer.

P1000764.JPG IMG_3168.JPG CTC Bike Sack (as supplied) IMG_3170.JPG

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

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posted by A V Lowe [480 posts]
19th April 2014 - 2:13

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