Bikes on Trains and the Mid Cheshire line ….

Posted on October 24th, 2012, by The Chairman

The carriage of bikes on trains has become more difficult since the end of the old DMUs and with the introduction of modern multiple units, these also often replacing loco-hauled trains which had luggage compartments, such as the Voyagers replacing Mk II coaching stock.

On the Mid Cheshire line we’re seeing increasing numbers of passengers bringing their bikes with them. Often it’s part of a commute, as with the 4 scholars who commute from Knutsord to their school in Hale Barns using the train between Knutsford and Hale, then cycling the 2 miles to Hale Barns, and often it’s for leisure such as those at weekends taking their mountain bikes from Stockport and Chester to Delamere Forest.

Some of those from the Chester end come from the Wirral using the Merseyrail service to Chester which has plenty of space for bikes on its class 507 and 508 units. Indeed if these are full, they have two luggage areas being units built in the early 1970s when luggage areas were provided. On the Mid Cheshire line it can be more difficult. Bikes can be carried at the conductor’s discretion, i.e. if there’s space, and there’s an overall rule of no more than 2 bikes per train, though conductors will often allow more. On the Crewe-Liverpool line, there’s plenty of space for bikes in London Midland’s nice class 350 units.

The threat of being denied boarding, next train 1 hour (2 hours on Sundays) is hardly an enticement though!

We have been saying for some time that with a more intelligent use of available space, more bikes could be carried. We’ve suggested vertically-hung bikes, as used in some other parts of the world. We’ve variously been told that it’s not possible on Pacers as they’re too narrow (we don’t believe this) or that with the short franchises that have been handed out, there’s no interest by the operators in investing in improving their trains.

Bikes and prams are also not allowed on buses replacing trains, though often in practice the buddies who help the bus drivers on the Mid Cheshire line will do their best to accomodate them.

On my recent trip to France and Switzerland noted in our recent planned repalcement buses post, I travelled on the metre gauge line from St Gervais les Bains, through Chamonix to the Swiss border and on to Martigny. For those who don’t know, it’s a highly scenic route electrified at 850v DC variously with overhead wires and top contact third rail, the latter in France and on the more confined sections in Switzerland. Parts of it are a rack railway, very steep and highly scenic.

It’s a line heavily used by tourists in the spring, summer and autumn going walking and biking, and in the winter the main way of interconnecting between some of the different skiing areas around Chamonix.

I travelled on a unit built by Stadler in Bussnang, Switzerland just over 4 years ago. It has bike racks of the vertical variety ….

This area is also used for storing skis in the winter months.

These are three-car sets, with two power cars and a centre high floor trailer vehicle.

At St Gervais there’s a cross platform connection with the standard gauge SNCF network.

These units are narrower than Pacers.

Here’s a couple of bikers loading their bikes at St Gervais.

I timed these two. 18 seconds to load 2 bikes.

No faffing around with straps, either ….

Then back to my seat for a view of the glacier whilst my phone recharged from the plug-in point ….

For those travelling around Switzerland, it’s worth knowing that the very good value Swiss Pass and Swiss Flexi-Pass (not available to Swiss nationals) is also valid on this line, including the 23-mile long section of the line that’s owned and operated by SNCF.


We’ve noticed there’s been an industry-wide initiative to fit sanders to the Pacers and those Sprinters that didn’t have them.

How about an industry-wide initiative to sort out an intelligent use of space for storing bikes, and then to fit the agreed result?

Please leave a comment

  1. Community Rail Officer Says:

    That is exactly what is required – an industry wide initiative for “intelligent” bike storage on trains – what is first required is the will to do it. It is great to see all the investment in cycle facilities at stations but the industry needs to take on board that people want to take their bikes on trains too & why shouldn’t they? It could be an ATOC challenge to the Universities & Engineers for someone to come up with a solution – an excellent project for someone’s CV.
    We hear what isn’t possible in terms of bikes and trains – it would be good to focus on what can be done.

  2. Mike Battman Says:

    On an almost related theme….what are the rules/regulations relating to taking dogs on trains? I’m not talking about dogs for the blind; I mean ordinary pets.
    I recently travelled back from Cardiff on an Arriva Trains Wales dmu, the woman opposite had a dog on the seat for the whole journey!
    It would be nice to take our dog to Delamere by train, but I don’t recall seeing a dog on a Northern Rail train

  3. The Chairman Says:

    Hi, Mike!

    Dogs are allowed on TOC’s trains, though not on seats.

    I regularly take mine on the Mid Cheshire line.

  4. Mike Battman Says:

    Thanks, a trip to Delamere is on the cards

  5. railofficer Says:

    Yes they can travel free – 2 well behaved dogs per person so hubby & I have taken our 3 dogs on Northern Rail.

  6. Jen Says:

    The Arriva Voyagers do have space for ‘hanging’ bicycles in the space where the shop used to be. I’m not sure how well the idea of storing bicycles vertically suits the older bicycle users.

  7. Jen Says:

    I was on the Merseytravel 142 operated 17:09 Manchester-Chester service last night. The previous service has been cancelled so there were around 40 standing on departure from Altrincham. If you had got on with a bike at Manchester Piccadilly an wanted to alight at Mobberley I think you would have had a very difficult job to get your bike off the train without hitting a standing passenger with it unless some of the standing passengers alighted to let you get your bike off.

  8. Lee Hawthorn Says:

    Bikes on trains is great for commuting as it enables for greater distances from stations hence opens up rail use to more people.

    As more people get on their bikes it’s natural the demand for bikes on trains will increase. Wouldn’t it be great if there was some joined up thinking to facilitate this in proactive way.

    I use my bike occasionaly on the train from Chester to Northwich and I don’t have any trouble. Although from time to time I have travelled to Manchester on the peak ATW and it appears somewhat harder.

    With lighter evenings I also get off at Delamere on the return for a quick ride in the forest to unwind. My only negative feedback is that I have to almost throw my bike onto the Pacer due to the gap/height between platform and train. The risers at Northwich are very much appreciated. Also many stations, such as Northwich involve carrying your bike up and down steep steps. Both of these factors are obstacles for some.

    Since getting out of car for the commute my general well being has improved. I arrive at the office with a relaxed frame of mind. Whilst on the train I have time to think or learn. I have more energy during the day and into the evening. Despite me talking of these benefits to friends and colleagues they don’t join me. The primary reason is their perception of risk on the road. It’s now a well known fact that offices can be a hazardous place to work due to the inherent levels of inactivity. I believe the risks of riding a bike are less than the risks to ones health from inactivity. Of course there are many different ways to keep active but by building activity into a commute where possible it is a win win situation.

    I look forward to the day when I have more company.


  9. Jen Says:

    Knutsford and Altrincham are currently getting bicycle rental schemes set up by Bike & Go: The downside seems to be you need to collect and return keys from the ticket office which makes Sunday rentals difficult, which is possibly the day it would be most useful given the roads are quietest on Sundays and there are fewer bus services (none at all in Knutsford on Sunday.)

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