UK commuters still struggling to get bikes on trains

The worrying trend of UK train firms banning bikes at peak times shows no sign of abating.


The worrying trend of UK train firms banning bikes at peak times shows no sign of abating.


Welsh commuter Shaun Barker is just the latest victim of the practice, and is now facing a 30 miles round trip on his bike to get to work each day. Mr Barker had planned to get the train from his home town of Newport into Cardiff Central and then cycle on to Cardiff Bay where he works as a software developer. But he’s been told by Arriva Trains Wales that he can’t take his bike by train on their services between 7.30am and 9.30am and 4pm and 6pm, Monday to Friday.

Across the UK there is no standard system for allowing bikes on trains. The Eurostar from London to Paris only allows folding bikes in passenger carriages. You can book your bike on separately for an extra £20 each way but the company won’t guarantee your bike will travel on the same service as you. Standard cycles are banned at peak times from the London Underground but are allowed at other times on parts of the surface network.

First Great Western – which runs major services from the South West into London, allows bikes on a first come, first served basis, although reservations can be made to guarantee a space. Virgin Trains, which controls trains running north to south through Birmingham, has the same policy, while GNER, operating between London and Yorkshire, will only carry bikes with a reservation.

It’s often the smaller train operators which ban cycles, as they typically run services with fewer carriages, which don’t have dedicated racks.

Standard bikes are banned at peak times in and out of major cities by companies including Arriva Trains Wales, c2c, Chiltern Railways, First Capital Connect, and Heathrow Connect.

Mr Barker told his local paper, the South Wales Echo, “When I checked the Arriva website there was loads of information about how rail transport is helping the environment. But then there was small print saying you can’t take a bike on the train at peak times. That’s completely pointless. The only reason I would want to take my bike to Cardiff is to get to work.”

He’s now cycling between Newport and Cardiff Bay, but says he’ll be driving once winter sets in.

The situation for cyclists is unlikely to improve in the short term. A recent Government strategy designed to overhaul the rail network left the power to ban bikes at peak times firmly in the hands of the UK’s train companies, saying local conditions needed to be taken into account.

Elsewhere in the world attitudes to bikes on trains vary wildly. In France cyclists are often required to put their bikes into specially designed bags for long distance services – local services usually offer an on-board rack. In the United States bikes can be checked in or stored on racks on long-distance Amtrak services, while in Australia you may need a special permit to take your bike on board a train at peak times.

To find out more about taking your bike by rail in the UK, visit this regularly updated and highly detailed list.


You can read the full story of Mr Barker’s woes here.