• vimeo
  • instagram
  • twitter
  • facebook
  • linkedin



Guide to taking bikes on trains

Posted by at 10:08 on Sunday 18 July 2010

Here's a summary of the bicycle policies of the main railway lines of the UK and Ireland, along with any other initiatives designed to help or encourage cycling passengers.

Cycle loading points are becoming increasingly familiar at UK railway stations. Photo: Richard HammondCycle loading points are becoming increasingly familiar at UK railway stations. Photo: Richard Hammond

In general, most rail companies will let you take your bike onboard for free, although Eurostar charges £20 per bike for a one-way journey. The majority of trains have just two reservable spaces or racks for bicycles, with any additional bikes being carried only at the conductor's discretion. For a family or group of friends, then, travelling with bikes may prove a headache. 

Most train lines require you to call and book in advance - which can be tricky if you're not keeping to a fixed itinerary - though folding bikes are almost always accepted as hand luggage, even at peak times. For standard non-folding bikes there are often restrictions over peak travel times.

To make it easier for passengers to combine bicycle and rail travel, some train companies have invested heavily in bike racks and secure lockers at stations so passengers can leave their bikes in confidence. First Capital Connect's website now has downloadable cyccling maps which begin from stations along its route.

Perhaps the most innovative approach is the 'cycle rescue services' offered by ScotRail and National Express East Anglia which help cyclists who hurt themselves or damage their bike and are unable to complete the cycling leg of their journey. ScotRail will let you travel on their trains for free that day, while National Express East Anglia will pick you up and drive you home or to a train station or cycle repair shop.


How to take a bike on a train in the UK and Ireland

Click the links for each rail company's cycle policy:

Arriva Trains Wales - Wales

  • Most trains can take two bikes. Call 0870 9000 773 at least 24 hours in advance to reserve a spot.

C2C - London Fenchurch Street to Southend Central and Shoeburyness

  • Two reservable spaces for bikes.
  • Reservations aren’t required but there are restrictions on some peak-time services.

Caledonian Sleeper (ScotRail) - London to Scotland

  • Reservations compulsory
  • Space for six cycles per train (three from Inverness to London)

Chiltern Railways - London Marylebone to Stratford-upon-Avon, Birmingham and Kidderminster

  • Reservations aren’t required but there are restrictions on some peak-time services.

Cross Country - Scotland to North East England and the South/South West; South Wales to the East Midlands/East Anglia

  • Two reservable spaces for bikes. Call 0844 811 0124

East Coast - London King’s Cross - Eastern Counties - Yorkshire - North East England – Scotland

  • Space for five bikes per train
  • Reservations compulsory. Pre-book when using East Coast's website to book your tickets, or call them.

First Great Western

  • London to South Wales and the West Country (high speed) - six spaces per train, reservations are compulsory at peak times
  • London, the Cotswalds and Thames Valley - two spaces, call 08457 000 125 to reserve

First Hull Trains

  • Two spaces per train. Call to reserve

First ScotRail

  • Reservations are required on some, especially longer, services. Call 08457 55 00 33 up to 12 weeks in advance to reserve.
  • The 10.47 Inverness-Edinburgh and 13.35 Edinburgh-Inverness have eight reservable spaces each, as of this year.
  • Almost every station on the ScotRail network has parking facilities or lockers for bikes.
  • ScotRail has developed a Cycle Rescue scheme (08000 717 212) which means, if you break down or have your bike stolen and cannot complete the cycle portion of your journey, they’ll take you and your bike for free that day, within Scotland.
  • ScotRail also has agreements with several cycle hire companies in Scotland to offer discounts – show your rail ticket to get between 10-20% off at Beat Bikes, Fort William; Ticket to Ride, Inverness; and Basecamp Bikes, Blair Atholl 

First TransPennine Express - long-distance services across the north of England

  • Two spaces on most trains.
  • Reservations advised – call 0845 600 1674

Grand Central - Sunderland and Hartlepool to London

  • Normally space for three bikes, but up to six can be accommodated
  • Reserve in advance

Irish Rail

  • Intercity services allow up to three bicycles, but there is a charge. Prices depend on distance travelled, from E2.50 up to 56km, to E8 over 137km, each way.
  • Bikes cannot be taken on DART or commuter trains.
  • Irish Rail ticket holders can get a 10% discount at a range of cycle hire companies across the country, see the website for details.

London Midland - London to Birmingham, Birmingham to Liverpool

  • Space for two bikes per train, though more may be accommodated at the conductor’s discretion.
  • Bikes aren’t permitted at peak times.
  • London Midland is investing in more cycle storage and security at its stations.

Transport for London

  • Certain underground lines allow normal bikes outside peak hours, mainly the Circle line and sections of the tube outside zone 1. See a full map of routes on which normal bikes are allowed on the Transport For London website.
  • Certain sections of overground routes also allow normal bicycles outside peak hours.

Merseyrail - Merseyside

  • Reservations not required but restrictions apply at busy times.

National Express East Anglia - London to Norwich

  • London Liverpool Street to Norwich has six spaces in the Guard Van – reservations are compulsory.
  • On other local services, reservations are not required and there are four spaces.
  • National Express East Anglia operates a Cycle Rescue Service for journeys in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. If you are unable to complete the cycling portion of your journey because your bike breaks down or is stolen, or you injure yourself, there’s a 24-hour service to pick you up and take you home or to a train station or accommodation.

Northern Rail - North of England and parts of the East Midlands

  • Two bicycles per train.
  • Reservations aren’t required

Southeastern - South East London, Kent and East Sussex

  • No reservations required but not permitted at peak times
  • There is an ongoing programme to increase bicycle parking at stations

Southern - London to Surrey, Sussex and South East England

  • Normal, non-folding bicycles aren’t allowed on peak services at all.
  • At other times, bikes can be taken if space allows.
  • Southern’s website lists the number of bicycle parking spaces at its stations, and Southern is in the process of installing a further 1,500 cycle spaces at its franchise stations.

South West Trains - London to South West London and South West England

  • There are restrictions at peak times.
  • Reservations are not normally required, as long as there’s space.
  • However, reservations are essential on Waterloo to Salisbury/Exeter/Bristol. Call 0845 6000 650 (option 4) at least 24 hours in advance.

Translink (Ireland) - Northern Ireland Railways and Enterprise

  • Up to four bikes can be carried.
  • Bikes aren’t permitted until after 9.30am Monday to Friday.

Virgin Trains - London - West Midlands - North Wales - North West England - Scotland

  • Space for four bicycles per train.
  • Reservations are advised, call 08719 774 222.

Northern Ireland Railways

  • Bicycles are carried free of charge on all Northern Ireland Railway services, including the cross-border Enterprise service, and the train meeting the ferries coming into Larne.
  • There is no reservation system, and they will be carried on a first-come first-served basis.


Cycling Holidays in the UK:

For cycling holidays in the UK, see greentraveller's cycling holidays in England, Scotland and Wales.

Green Travel Blog

Read our latest blog posts in the categories below or go to blog home

Our expert contributors

Follow us on twitter