South West Trains ban bikes on all services for the duration of the Olympics

You won't be able to take your bike on any SWT service while the games are on, plus round-up of other restrictions

by Dave Atkinson   July 10, 2012  

Bikes at Paddington station (© Rod Alladay)

Thinking of taking your bike on a train to see the Olympics? Well, the basic advice from the South's train operating companies is: don't. At least, not a bike that doesn't fold.

There's been a raft of 'emergency' restrictions involving the carriage of cycles from a number of different train operators over the past few months. South West are the latest company to report their restrictions, and they have the most draconian of any firm so far. Basically, they're not allowing non-folding bikes on any of their trains from Friday 27 July to Sunday 12 August and Wednesday 29 August to Sunday 9 September. That's any train at all, not just ones that you might get on to go to an Olympic event. So if you normally commute with your bike from Bracknell to Reading or you're on holiday with your bike on the Isle of Wight, the trains are off limits for the whole of the Games.

It seems the train companies' stock response to any possible conflict is to remove the conflict by removing the bikes. That way they can shoehorn more paying passengers in, we guess; what all the people who would normally commute part by bike using these routes are supposed to do isn't clear. Presumably they'll end up adding to the overcrowding on the tube and bus services in the capital.

"It is ironic that the Olympics, the point of which in part is to inspire physical activity, has resulted in people having to reduce their cycling," say the CTC on their website. "The temporary closure of public spaces in London and elsewhere is having similar effects. CTC is dismayed at the proposals, which will greatly undermine the potential for people to cycle to see the races and other events. We are in talks with train operating companies to try and improve the situation."

Sustrans aren't happy either. "The Olympic Games presents an excellent opportunity to get people active, but decisions such as these are contradicting the advice that we want to see more people cycling in London during the games," said German Dector-Vega, London Director of the charity. "There’s real concern about what happens after the games. Will South West Trains decide that taking bikes is just too much hassle and ban them altogether? It’s not too late for South West Trains to reverse their policy and allow people to book reserved spaces for their bikes for their trip to the Games."

Cycle campaigner Dave Holladay has also been in touch, and told us, "I've already dealt with a CTC member in Kent who has made advance booking for rail travel (using South East Trains & First Great Western) with bike reservations, to which South East's response was basically, 'Well, tough: we've changed the rules now.' I think there are a number of others, and it would be a supreme irony if cycling sport events where riders are taking bikes on the train were harmed by the effects of the Olympics bike bans."

Here's a round-up of the other restrictions in place.

Southern

Southern trains have effectively banned non-folding bikes on any route that might prove useful to get to an Olympic event. From Friday 27 July to Sunday 12 August and Wednesday 29 August to Sunday 9 September non fully folded bikes will not be allowed on any Southern or Gatwick Express train on the following routes:

- Any Gatwick Express service
- Mainline services between London Bridge/London Victoria and Gatwick (including via Redhill)
- Metro routes
- West London Route between Watford Junction and East Croydon

They're also banning bikes on the Road Race weekend to stations serving the route. From start of service on 28th July to close of service on 29th July, non fully folding bikes will not be permitted on trains between London Bridge/London Victoria and Box Hill & Westhumble on routes via Mitcham Junction, West Croydon, Sutton, Epsom and Horsham.

South Eastern

South Eastern are banning all non-folding bikes on services in and out of London during the Olympic and Paralympic periods. The cycle policy also applies to joint Southeastern and First Capital Connect services operating south of London Blackfriars (between London and Kent). That means that you can't take your bike on services terminating in London even if you're not going there with your bike.

First Great Western

FGW run services from Reading to Gatwick passing through Dorking, but non-folded bikes won't be accepted on those services on the Road Race weekend of 28-29 July. We're not aware of any further restrictions on services from the West into London on FGW trains; the inter-city services have separate bike storage which isn't really useful for anything else.

Cycles will not be accepted on any service between Westbury and Weymouth during the Olympic Sailing events either, 29 July - 11 August inclusive.

c2c

If you're thinking of taking your bike to the Mountain Biking at Hadleigh Farm then you won't be using the train. c2c have banned all bikes from the Leigh-on-Sea to London service during the MTB weekend, 11-12 August.

Arriva Trains Wales

Cycles may not be carried on days when a major event is taking place at the Millennium Stadium. For dates of events refer to the website or call Customer Relations Department on 0845 6061 660.

Heathrow Express

No ordinary (i.e. non-folding) cycles will be accepted on Heathrow Express services throughout the duration of the Games (from 13 July to 14 Sept).

20 user comments

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Here is a mad idea - im presuming the train companies were aware the Olympics were happening and therefore could perhaps plan ahead and put some extra capacity into their networks? Crazy radical thinking i know but hey ... it may just work.

posted by Some Fella [707 posts]
10th July 2012 - 12:50

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QR skewers, pedal spanner and a very large holdall => "it's my luggage"

posted by Dr_Lex [129 posts]
10th July 2012 - 13:15

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Wouldn't it be terrible if *hordes* of cyclists all turned up at one particular station for each of the network operators on the first day of each ban, all trying in turn to get on a train but all having to be informed, one-by-one, that they weren't able to.

Terrible. That would be terrible.

It *definitely* shouldn't happen.

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posted by Bez [363 posts]
10th July 2012 - 13:30

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(curses - double post)

Bez's picture

posted by Bez [363 posts]
10th July 2012 - 13:35

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Some Fella wrote:
Here is a mad idea - im presuming the train companies were aware the Olympics were happening and therefore could perhaps plan ahead and put some extra capacity into their networks? Crazy radical thinking i know but hey ... it may just work.

You seem to be under some misguided belief that the Olympics is a spectacle that should be witnessed and enjoyed by all, it is in fact a cash cow that should be suckled until it is a dried up husk, leaving nothing but a rotting carcass for those left to clean up.

posted by farrell [1247 posts]
10th July 2012 - 13:56

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Some Fella wrote:
Here is a mad idea - im presuming the train companies were aware the Olympics were happening and therefore could perhaps plan ahead and put some extra capacity into their networks? Crazy radical thinking i know but hey ... it may just work.

Yeah thats a good idea!

they should invest in a load of new capital that they'll only need for a month! Applause

posted by ALIHISGREAT [109 posts]
10th July 2012 - 14:14

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ALIHISGREAT wrote:
Some Fella wrote:
Here is a mad idea - im presuming the train companies were aware the Olympics were happening and therefore could perhaps plan ahead and put some extra capacity into their networks? Crazy radical thinking i know but hey ... it may just work.

Yeah thats a good idea!

they should invest in a load of new capital that they'll only need for a month! Applause

Most trains are leased by the train operators. There are a lot of unused rail vehicles hanging around in the middle of nowhere all over the country.

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
10th July 2012 - 14:17

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"Public Transport" in this country is a disgrace. Not only do we have the highest fares in europe but a hotchpotch of conflicting companies (subsidised by us, by the way) all making up their own rules, seemingly at random. Whatever happened to having an integrated transport policy? Cycling is going to be the only way to get around in London over the games period, and now you can't bring your bike. Brilliant.

...

posted by AlexStriplight [65 posts]
10th July 2012 - 14:53

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Dr_Lex wrote:
QR skewers, pedal spanner and a very large holdall => "it's my luggage"

Just remove the front wheel and wrap it in cardboard/tape and it becomes luggage.

posted by thereverent [295 posts]
10th July 2012 - 15:11

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Living in the West Country myself, i doubt we will see a major influx of people during the olympics. Seems really odd that we wont be able to take our bikes on just because the olympics are happening at the other side of the country.

posted by AJWatson [34 posts]
10th July 2012 - 15:17

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thereverent That made me laugh so much I've had to explain to my work colleagues why I'm laughing so much... Laughing

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posted by BBForest [12 posts]
10th July 2012 - 15:40

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i remember a story (apocryphal maybe) of a chap who took the wheels off his bike and sellotaped them to the bars, then got on the train claiming his bike was in fact a piece of modern art he'd bought at a gallery

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7236 posts]
10th July 2012 - 15:43

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It's not just any folding bikes on the trains for the Olympics - on Southeastern they have to be "compact" i.e a Brompton type so all of us who usually take larger folding bikes on our commute to London are screwed. Do they really want us all on public transport during the Games instead? Madness.

posted by badseed999 [4 posts]
10th July 2012 - 19:30

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Yes - that was my point. There are several ways of increasing capacity . Train companies do it on a seasonal basis already. It doesnt even have to involve bringing in new rolling stock. It can be be done with flexible timetabling or diverting resources. Trouble is because we dont have a unified network so this means competing companies would have to work together and cooperate and God forbid that should happen.
My general point was that the rail 'network' in this country is f**cked up and this is just an example of its inability to provide even the most basic of services.

posted by Some Fella [707 posts]
10th July 2012 - 20:00

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This is precisely why I booked my ferry out of the country on the 26th, and the one back on the 13th. Have fun everyone, I hope it's worth it (not that any amount of sport, no matter how dressed up in supposedly inspirational, but really grubbily commercial, bullsh*t could ever be worth 9 billion pounds.)

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
11th July 2012 - 8:19

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All this whinging. Common sense tells you that bikes on trains won't be a good mix during the Olympics.

What is wrong with actually riding your bike a whole journey? Hey you may even enjoy it and the increased mileage will improve your fitness.

posted by gazzaputt [178 posts]
11th July 2012 - 13:03

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gazzaputt wrote:
All this whinging. Common sense tells you that bikes on trains won't be a good mix during the Olympics.

What is wrong with actually riding your bike a whole journey? Hey you may even enjoy it and the increased mileage will improve your fitness.

the point, especially with southwest, is that they're not just restricting bikes on busy services to the olympics. they're banning all bikes on all services. where's the sense in that?

also, many of these operators have booking systems in operation for bike places, and dedicated space on trains to carry them. why is it so hard to just carry on with what you're already doing?

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7236 posts]
11th July 2012 - 13:12

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Just remember folks, these games are being touted as the greenest ever Laughing

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posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [562 posts]
11th July 2012 - 14:10

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dave_atkinson wrote:
i remember a story (apocryphal maybe) of a chap who took the wheels off his bike and sellotaped them to the bars, then got on the train claiming his bike was in fact a piece of modern art he'd bought at a gallery

I don't remember modern art, but I do remember http://forums.canadiancontent.net/hot-topics/45932-how-clever-cyclist-ca... (original vanished behind the Times paywall, perhaps - reproduced there as fair dealing for commentary, I think).

posted by a.jumper [679 posts]
11th July 2012 - 14:20

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dave_atkinson wrote:
also, many of these operators have booking systems in operation for bike places, and dedicated space on trains to carry them. why is it so hard to just carry on with what you're already doing?

Fart+Grunt Western have up to 8 dedicated bike spaces, but no booking system for local services and a limit of 2 bikes per train. They're crazy normally, so why expect sanity during the Olympics?

The Office of Rail Regulation should step in and sort out the squabbling train operating companies by modifying their licences to specify a sensible minimum standard of bike ticketing, but current chair Anna Walker doesn't seem interested in regulating them like that, more like wimpily "calling for improvement" as in http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.10937

posted by a.jumper [679 posts]
11th July 2012 - 14:31

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