The new GWR bike policy is a disaster

Great Wester Rail have introduced a new booking policy for bikes on their Intercity trains that is phenomenally bad:

Reserve your space when you book online, call 0345 7000 125; or visit a station ticket office; generally you should do this by 18:00 the day before, although some services have availability up to 2 hours before departure

What does this mean for you if you are travelling with bike?

If the train you are catching in Bath started in Penzance then you need to book your slot 2 hours before it leaves Penzance.

Should you get an open return and have no idea when you are coming back, then you are in real trouble. If you are returning from London, then you are probably ok, you only have a 2 hour wait at the station. If you’ve had a day trip out to say Swindon, you could be hanging around for upwards of 3 hours unless you catch a local service.

There is also the huge bike carrying capacity drop that this delivers to the network. Each slot can only be booked for the whole end to end journey of the train. Having commuted to Oxford using train+bike. People were constantly getting on and off. Bristol people were getting off freeing slots at Bath, I was getting off at Didcot with people getting on heading to Reading/London.

This policy massively reduces bike carrying capacity.

There is a petition against this policy. Please sign it.

It’s crazy in this day and age, where technology permeates every aspect of our lives, that train/station staff do not have the ability to reserve a spot on-demand on the train pulling into the station specifying when on the journey it will become free again.

Train operators should be making it easier to travel by train with bike not harder.

My hunch is that this policy originates from the introduction of the new class 800 trains that distribute bike storage throughout the train.

This creates a huge loading problem that is not present on the class 125. Rather than “Go to front of train and load”, you now need to “Go to the rear OR front of specific carriage”.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 09.25.59

The storage is abysmal  as well.


I can remember raising this with FirstGW (2007??) when the designs for the Hitachi Class 800 were initially proposed. Distribution of bike storage throughout the train is a bad thing and has resulted in an extremely poorly thought out change in booking policy to try and rectify it. This has significantly reduced the bike load capacity across the length of the line.

For regular commuters, the answer is simply to buy a fold-up or store a bike at both ends.

For somebody touring or travelling for leisure you are well and truly stuffed.


  1. I don’t like these cycle pods either but I don’t agree that the cycle storage on HST’s is good. You have to load your bike into the guard’s van – not necessarily knowing which end of the train it will be before it arrives – than make a run for a passenger door. If your seat reservation is a long way from the end of the train or even in 1st Class (cyclists do splash out occasionally) you’ve got a lengthy hike along the train, possibly with panniers that are not the easiest thing to carry down a full train, and you have no idea or control over what happens to your bike during the journey. Younger folks and those with poor memories may not remember that bikes were banned on HST’s when they were first brought in – that’s what got me started on cycle campaigning – and it was only once the trains were bedded in and the staff had got used to operating them that the rule was relaxed, although there was a £3 fee for bikes – even if only going one stop – for at least £10 years that was only dropped when the railway industry was privatised.

      • That would be great but in terms of on-train provision, a lot of people (my missus for example) can’t physically lift their bike to put it on a hook on the train . They need to be able to roll it on and rest it flat on the floor. That’s my objection to these pods. It’s a solution designed by able-bodied men for able-bodied men.

    • The bike carriage is at the end furthest from London unless there is an announcement “reverse formation”.

      • That’s just the sort of trainspottery information that is only of use to regular commuters. As a visitor to the West Country how would I know what the normal formation was? “First Class is at the front of the train, cycle carriage is at the rear” would be a more useful announcement – but then you would be announcing to the general public that the train actually carries bikes, we couldn’t have that could we? ;-(

  2. Not long before Reading railway station was revamped I was waiting for a 125 on the southern platform when it was it was announced that the train would that night be coming in on the next platform northwards. The footbridge was at the London end of the train so I trundled back along the platform over the bridge and trundled back to end of the platform so as to be ready. As the train came into view (perhaps 100yds from the end of the platform) it was announced (and it was evident) that there was another platform alteration and it would be departing from the original platform. So I had to charge back along the platform, over the bridge and back along the southern platform to get to the cycle compartment. Station staff made adverse comments to me about not being not being at the station in time as I scurried along the platform. I just made it and the door closed behind me. And before I had time to secure my bike properly the train was off and I was in the locked cycle compartment. At Didcot I went to get out so as to go and get a seat but I was met by an unsympathetic member of station staff who told me in no uncertain terms that I should not have travelled in the bike compartment and I was lucky that they hadn’t called the Transport Police.

    I would have been very glad of distributed cycle facilities through the train and the opportunity to go and find a seat without having to get out off the train so as to get back in again at another door.

    Undertaking the same journey on another occasion my bike was damaged by someone (probably in a rush) jamming their bike against mine. The racks are woefully inadequate in the 125s and I can’t help feeling that the facilities are poor so as to put people off using them. GWR plainly don’t want to carry bikes as this new policy shows. I have used the pod style on other trains and they did feel more secure and I felt I could monitor who was passing through as i had a seat close by.

    Years ago I used to travel with a bike more often but the InterCity trains had half a carriage for miscellaneous luggage and the guard (not a train manager!) compartment was alongside so you would always be welcomed on and off the train and the gurad would know where the bike was going and whose bike it was. It felt safe. Even the local trains had a good size compartment and double doors, again alongside the guard’s compartment.

    • I’m against any cycles on board as the users persistently breaking the safety regulations by cycling or riding on one pedal only along the platforms. I saw a member of staf was trying to encourage a “gentelman” on bike to dismount but was told: “f…off I don’t care I need to get this train !!!!” I saw also many times cyclist were trying to board the train with their bikes and were bloking the exits and gangways (local services especialy), causes a serious safety risk in eg. in case case of fire, when a quick evacuation may be needed. They don’t bother to check if on the middle car of local service is a free space for the bikes (New trains and half of old diesel trains have specially designed bays in the vehicles) They are to lazy to do so. The rule not carrying the cycles in certain peak time services seems like not apply to them. As a compromise, only foldable cycles should be allowed to travel on train. This would reduce boarding time, decrease the space beeing used by cyclist and increase safety on board in case of accident.

      • Firstly a lot of what you are saying is anecdotal. Then we need to consider that actual ‘train emergencies’ are exceptionally rare and this is fear mongering on your part.

        We are still at the point where cycle security at train stations is so poor people feel they need to take their bikes with them. Something you do not see where good secure bike storage is available at either end as people just have two bikes.

        Folding bikes are a solution and I use one myself when I travel on trains as it lets me get on any train.

      • Marty, If there was proper provision for bikes on trains there would be no need to seek to exclude them as you suggest. To turn your argument around, what if you had said, “I’m against cars on roads because users persistently break the safety regulations by driving faster then the speed limits”?

  3. They could simply have put one larger cycle storage in the middle of the train…

    In that picture it looks really hard to get the second bike out from behind the first. I can’t imagine my wife being able to reach in and lift her bike out at an awkward angle from behind the front one.

    Surely better to hang bikes up across the carriage, rather than front to back, you’d get twice as many in, and could free up the other bike pod spaces for toilets or luggage.

    Any idea if there are more detailed plans and if there’s anyone who might listen to ideas. Probably far too late to change now but anyway.

    Also agree that a good app for instant real time booking would make most of the “service” problems go away. Just the issue of inefficient / tricky storage.

  4. On many occasions, I have been on a journey with one or more changes, where a delayed train led to a missed connection. Obviously in these situations, bicycle reservations would need to operate in the same way as “advance” tickets, namely that although normally only valid on a particular service, they become transferrable to a later train in the event of a missed connection. This means that GWR will still have to be able to cope with allowing passengers to take advantage of any unused bike spaces without advance notice — only now, nobody will have any clue where on the train any spare spaces are to be found. No doubt this will lead to many stressful situations, with the likelihood of passengers with bikes coming under pressure from train despatch staff as they struggle to find suitable entrance doors in a hurry. All of this could be avoided by continuing to have a single large pool of bicycle storage in a predictable place on the train.

  5. Trying to catch a train with a bike from Oxford to Reading. Not exactly sure at what time.

    Two different operators with different policies. But at least CC do have an ‘unreserved’ slot

    GWR running probably three different types of rolling stock. Some need reservation, some don’t. Nothing on the timetable tells you what runs when.

    Cycle space is in different places on each type of train and no information on GWR website about where this is.

    Oxford station very busy and crowded so you need to know exactly where to go and not be wheeling a bike all over the place.

    It is all so difficult that I have decided I have not choice but to turn up and be assertive. Then they wonder why cyclists cause problems!

  6. Booked two bikes on a train from Swindon to Bristol yesterday. Both Class 800 bike compartments (coaches B and K) full of luggage, including surfboards. The booked/unbooked indicators weren’t even turned on. What are you supposed to do? We had to stand in the vestibule with bikes all the way. No train manager in sight. I’m going to complain but I think GWR’s real policy is to get cyclists off trains as far as possible.

  7. I was travelling from Paddington to Hanborough (a stop 10 mins after Oxfod) and was advised to put my bike into the pod – really difficult to heave it up and hook it in – feels like it doesn’t fit. Thought I’d damage my wheel or injure myself in the process Even though I told them I was going to Hanborough I was told to use this particular bike pod. Then it turned out the platform at Hanborough is short so I was then told to unhook the bike at Oxford and go along the platform to the next carriage, and stand with it in the corridor to Hanborough. While doing so, I was shouted at by another member of train staff on the Oxford platform who said I couldn’t do that and told me to go to some other carriage. I ignored them Fortunately I was with someone who helped with bike heaving and retrieving panniers from the other carriage.

    Trying to book a return space for the bike was a pain. I phoned and was advised there were no bike spaces available at Hanborough for the train I wanted to get, or for the next train, but also told it would probably not be full if I just showed up (?) so I booked from Oxford and I thought I’d have to stuff the bike in the corridor on the way as before. He couldn’t tell me whether a bike pod would align with the platform at Hanborough. No station staff there at all.

    I had to reserve spaces on 2 trains as I wasn’t sure I’d make the first one, especially after hanging on the phone so long.

    But there was a free bike pod at Hanborough and it was aligned with the platform, so almost plain sailing from then. But again I don’t think I could have got the bike up on to the hook without help. It’s really difficult.

    • It seems to me that they just do not want anyone to take there bikes on the trains. I have a folding bike and I was thinking of going to didcot for the day for a cycle but reading this as put me off

  8. The pods are a disaster for touring cyclists. Train operators – no interest. Let them try hook up a bike AND juggle your panniers and associated kit.

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