Using a bicycle and train combination can offer a greener, healthier, more pleasant and often a cheaper and quicker way of getting to work or for leisure and holiday purposes.
The good news is that its free to take a bike on almost all trains on the national network. The bad news is that it can be complicated unless you have a folding bike.
Fully folding bikes with wheels up to 85cm (33 inches) are allowed on all trains. No restrictions and no need to reserve a space. The only rule is that you must be able to carry the bike onto the train and fit it in the luggage rack. So, if you own, borrow or hire a folding bike such as a Brompton you shouldn’t have any problems.
If you have a standard, non-folding bike and more especially a tandem, tricycle or adaptive bike, it gets more difficult. It doesn’t help that each rail operator has different policies and the space available on different trains can vary.
In Worcestershire you need to reserve a space for your bike when booking your ticket if taking a Great Western Railways train. With West Midlands Railway, Chiltern Railways and Cross Country Trains you can’t pre-book and its left to the discretion of staff as to whether there’s enough space. It is usually not a problem outside peak times, but you’re not guaranteed a space.
To avoid potential problems you’re therefore advised to check before you travel. Staff at your local station will be able to advise. National Rail Enquiries also has a very useful section on its website ‘Cycling and Cyclists’.
Through the National Rail Enquiries website – nationalrail.co.uk – there’s also a free ‘Plusbike’ app to download to your mobile. The app allows you to customise information to your specific journey or by train station.
As well as detailing different train operators’ policies it provides information on cycling parking and other facilities at each station including any cycle hire services available at or near a station.
So, even if you don’t or can’t take a bike on the train its slowly getting easier to safely leave your bike at your local station and hire a bike when you get to your destination.
For example, through bromptonhire.com , it is now possible to hire a Brompton bike 24/7 at the six main stations in Birmingham. For an occasional user its £5 a year to register and £10 a day to hire. If hiring more frequently you can sign up for £20 a year and pay £5 per day.