Bikes on Public Transport
Travelling back from Paris with your bike in a group by Eurostar
Thanks to lobbying from CTC Eurostar does now accept bikes to be carried on the same train, but it will cost you the rather eye-watering sum of £30 (although in the group of eight that I travelled with yesterday we managed to bargain this down to £20 each). There’s a max of 10 per train.
It’s pretty straightforward: you must take your bike to the despatch office (called SERNAM) at the far northwest of Gare du Nord at least 1.5 hours before the train leaves. You can then either pick it up from the equivalent office at the rear of St Pancras, or loiter outside the bike carriage on the platform upon arrival at St Pancras and request that the staff unloading the bikes surrender it to you directly.
Alternatively you can still send it as registered baggage for £22 but it won’t be guaranteed to be on the same train as you.
Finally you may also carry it in a plastic bag so long as it is packed down to package with a dimension no longer than 1200 mm (h x w x d).
All this is set out on Eurostar’s website here: http://www.eurostar.com/UK/uk/leisure/travel_information/at_the_station/bicycles.jsp
Online Cycle Reservations
Yes, folks, this is possible – provided you know the right website. And the right website is….. http://www.eastcoast.co.uk/ Their reservation service covers the whole of the UK, not just the East Coast line.
European Rail Travel
It was good to read two recent postings, one from Lonely Planet, when their latest newsletter dropped into my inbox; the other arrived by chance from AtoB Magazine. Both concern rail travel and both make good reading.
The AtoB website Add this useful website to your favourites list. Here’s the link to the start page for all their info on continental rail travel: http://atob.org.uk/bike-cycle-europe-travel-guide-1.html Watch for new pages being added over future months. Incidentally, a lot of this was written by CTC Overseas Touring Correspondents, Neil and Judith Forsyth. You can’t keep good people down!
Lonely Planet’s recent newsletter contained some interesting stuff about long distance night trains. Add a folding bike and you’re away! http://www.lonelyplanet.com/italy/venice/travel-tips-and-articles/18130 It’s possible this article isn’t as young as it looks, since the earliest comment underneath dates back one and a half years! Still it’s all new to me – plus I need regular reminding of things.
French Railway Travel
Here’s another account of a return (with bikes) from the south of France back to the UK. Many thanks to member Mike Boice for taking the trouble to write this.
… from our base in Narbonne, we then had to focus on on getting two laden bikes and ourselves back to the UK. We booked onto the TGV from Toulouse to Paris and took the Regional train from Narbonne to Toulouse. I had heard stories of the arbitrary power wielded by TGV guards so, even though we had booked and payed for the bikes, I was nervous. In order to get from Toulouse to the UK in one day, we booked overnight accommodation in the ETAP Hotel, Toulouse, which is close to the station and very reasonably priced. Narbonne station was a cyclists’ nightmare – long stairs and no lifts. Other train users who could see we were in difficulty came to our aid. On the Narbonne – Toulouse train the bikes, and us, stood in the doorway – and caused quite a stir when a woman with a large pushchair wanted to get off at the first stop! At Toulouse station we had to get our bikes down a flight of stairs but then had the strange experience of going up an escalator with them – a first and quite a balancing act.
We made sure we got to Toulouse station in very good time for our morning TGV. It was a great relief to find that the train was leaving from platform 1 – on the level and right in front of us as we entered the station. We showed our reservations and were directed to the very front coach – miles away down the platform! Still nervous, we arrived there to find a charming and helpful guard who ushered us into a small carriage with 12 seats in blocks of four and 4 other folding seats on the side where the bikes went. Not only didn’t we have to remove any of our panniers and luggage but we were able to sit with our bikes all the way to Paris. Fabulous!
With the aid of a Mappy map (URL below), downloaded before we set off, we were able to navigate quite comfortably across Paris from Gare Montparnasse to Gare Saint Lazare. In fact it was mostly a lovely, interesting ride. A useful tip for cyclists using Saint Lazare: if you go up the road to the right (as you look at the station from the front), you can access the platforms on the level. Going in the front entrance means navigating lots of stairs. No problems on the trains from Paris to Dieppe although the change in Rouen confronted us with stairs/no lifts again.
The fare per person from Narbonne to Dieppe was 106.30 euros and the bikes on the TGV were 10 euros each.”
Do have a look at the full information sheet here: http://www.ctc-maps.org.uk/routes/route/997. (You’ll need to be a member.)
TRAVELLING WITH A BIKE ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT
In addition to CTC’s information on this topic (consisting of various detailed information sheets), here is AtoB Magazine’s very useful offering ~ http://www.atob.org.uk/bike-cycle-europe-travel-guide-1.html And here’s a link to a similar site – that of Cycle-n-Sleep ~ http://www.cycle-n-sleep.co.uk/train%20map/train%20map%20home.htm
The CTC Forum is an unending source of useful information. A thread about a recent flight on Ryanair caught my eye. http://forum.ctc.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=42773
BUYING ADVANCE RAIL TICKETS
I was delighted to be advised by a colleague about Cross Country Trains [http://www.crosscountrytrains.co.uk/]. I just about halved the cost of a return ticket from my home station to Bristol compared to what The Trainline.com were offering. Astonishing!
Member TH writes:
“A brief word of warning in case you are thinking of taking your bike flying with Iberia Airlines – DON’T!
I recently booked an Iberia ticket for myself and bike – Gatwick to Bilbao in Spain. Even though I couldn’t have made it more clear that the ticket was to include a bicycle, when email ticket arrived, no mention of bicycle… I rang back after which they referred me to a different company responsible for the cargo (what!!!). I wrote to this company several times asking for confirmation re bike – no reply, until, eventually, two weeks after the trip when all I received was an apology for the slow response – but still no confirmation or mention of the bike. I mean…really…how can…groan…etc.. However, by that time I had decided not to risk my precious bike and holiday (Bilbao to Porto) so relocated to Scotland instead. The ticket? I received back £29 out of the £150. I also gained a great cycling experience, in Scotland, if also rather wet…
I have had excellent experiences with airlines such as SAS (Scandinavian Airlines).. However, I find it all rather hit and miss. Wouldn’t it be nice if the airlines got their act together re bicycles.
BOOKING UN-BAGGED BIKES WITH EUROSTAR
Here’s a report from a CTC member telling of his recent experiences: We recently travelled by Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris. We paid to take the bikes on the train unbagged. We’ve done this before and found it an excellent service with no problems at all at St Pancras. We were on an open-ended moving-on cycling trip and didn’t know our return date. We planned to return from Paris by Eurostar with unbagged bikes when we had eventually decided our return date. However when we came to return ticket staff at Paris Gare du Nord station told us that it was not possible to take an unbagged bike on the Eurostar from Paris to London. Surnam, the baggage handlers at the station told us it was possible but couldn’t confirm what day or train our bikes would be on. So, for the return journey we had to rapidly get hold of large plastic bags in Paris and hurriedly pack the bikes at Gare du Nord station. There seemed to be about 6 trolleys in the whole station. This meant we had to lug our bikes in unwieldy plastic bags + our luggage by hand all the way through the station through the Eurostar check in and passport control and down to the Eurostar train. This was bad enough for me but quite unreasonable for my partner who broke her back a few years ago. We were told there is a black market in trolleys at Gare du Nord station and as all the staff seemed to know about the trolley shortage we could only assume the black market is tolerated. Fortunately a helpful Eurostar staff member opened the train baggage car where we put the bagged bikes. We were lucky in that one of the French luggage handlers then told us to remove them! He seemed to be overruled shorlty before the train departed. If he hadn’t been we’d have had to move the bikes to the carriage racks which were already completely full by then. Back at St Pancras we asked how in future we should make a booking while in France in order to travel with an unbagged bike back to the UK. We we’re told that the service for carrying unbagged bikes on Eurostar IN BOTH DIRECTIONS is administered from St Pancras. So… it seems you either book your outward AND return journeys with your unbagged bike before you leave the UK or if you want to be open ended about your return date as we did then St Pancras told us:
1. Once you have decided what train you want to travel on from Paris you phone St Pancras from France to see if there’s space for an unbagged bike on that train
2. You then book your rail ticket for that train at a French station
3. You then phone St Pancras again quoting your ticket reference number (and hoping the bike space is still available!) in order to book the bike on the same train.
Given the confusion even among staff this may well be wrong but this was our experience and this what we were told by staff So… personally when on open ended trips I may well go to France by Eurostar but stick to the ferry when coming back! [16/08/10]
CHEAP RAIL FARES TO EUROPE – LEARN SOME TRICKS
It’s possible to buy a one-way ticket from London to Köln (Cologne), via the Eurostar to Brussels, for 49 Euros by booking it on the Deutche Bahn (DB, the German railway company) website: https://fahrkarten.bahn.de/privatkunde/meinebahn/meine_bahn_portal.go;jsessionid=6wDKLmmft6nLnZcGP6462JWM2jyYGkpZ4ywFPW312XS7vXX22v6n!-955165399?shopId=212111a_x&lang=en
This is almost invariably cheaper than just travelling from London to Brussels. However it only seems possible to obtain this fare on one connection a day, leaving in both directions (i.e. either from London to Cologne or from Cologne to London) leaving at 8.27am. This seems to be the only connection for which you can get this deal. But it’s a good one.
You can actually do even better; there’s also a ticket from London to Frankfurt one way for 49 Euros, but it involves an overnight stay in Brussels. You leave London at 7.34pm and get to Frankfurt at 10.30am the next morning. Alternatively you can get to Frankfurt in one day for 89 Euros, leaving at 8.27am (i.e. the train that also gets you to Cologne for 49 Euros), and arrive in Frankfurt at 15.40.
And you can get from Frankfurt to Wien (Vienna) for 39 Euros single. This seems to be available on 3 trains a day: 06.22 (arr 13.22), 08.19 (arr 15.22) and 10.21 (arr 17.22).
There’s a map showing the discounted international fares available via DB: see http://www.bahn.com/i/view/GBR/en/destinations/flash.shtml.
Eurostar will carry a tandem provided that you can reduce the length to under 2 metres, so it can be hung from their bike hooks, as this is the limiting detail for their van space. It will cost you £20 and the space can be booked in advance for travel on the same train as yourself – see their website
You will then need to get the package from Eurostar Brussel Sud platforms to the onward connection. The usual high speed services (Thalys & ICE) will not accommodate non-folding bikes, so you’ll need to play clever here. (Our reporter transported a 1.8 m bike rack on a Thalys service). Other services generally have the van space that can accommodate the assembled bike.
Until we crack Thalys/ICE services there remains this problem, but generally you can get around it by making the bike into a parcel – the closer to the officially set limits the less problems are likely. Before I got the Brompton I travelled with a 27” fixed wheel bike around UK and European mainland by rail and this could be knocked apart in under 5 minutes and wrapped up in a groundsheet like a giant artwork portfolio and carried with a shoulder strap attached to the top edge front & rear. Fixed wheel allows for easy removal of the handlebars and both wheels with a minimum of tools.
CTC INFORMATION SHEET INF14 ~ TAKING A CYCLE BY AIR ~ HAS MINOR REVISIONS
See also http://www.ctc.org.uk/DesktopDefault.aspx?TabID=5184 [08/07/10]
EMIRATES AIRLINES CHARGE HEAVILY FOR BIKES
We have just been informed that Emirates, an airline which can offer some attractive fares, suddenly becomes an unattractive airline to travel with if you want to fly with your bike. Golf equipment is the only form of sporting goods they recognize so you’ll undoubtedly have to pay large amounts of excess baggage charges if you want to take your bike along.
BRITISH AIRWAYS ~ CHARGES FOR CARRYING CYCLES
Thanks to CTC Tour Leaders Peter and Linda for the following: A follow-up to the information on BA charging for bikes – they are charging per sector, which means that if you have to change planes you pay for each flight. So if your trip involves two flights each way you pay four times for the bikes.