Ticket search and booking platform Loco2 has researched taking bikes on trains across the UK and Europe and published The Great Train Comparison, showcasing the facilities on trains for cyclists and other categories of traveler.
Loco2 worked with cycling experts such as Andrew P. Sykes, author of the wonderful series of books about his travels on his bike Reggie, who remarked:
“It can be rather bewildering when confronted by a myriad of different cycling policies from different train operating companies in different countries. However, from the perspective of someone who cycles, it is important that train companies have, at the very least, thought carefully about the specific practical issues of travelling on a train with your bicycle.
There are some wonderful examples of where this has happened across the continent with trains in many countries that provide plenty of storage room for bicycles and where the administrative formalities of getting your bike on a train are straightforward or, in the best-case scenarios, non-existent. It’s extremely useful when train companies are flexible and allow you to travel with your bicycle without booking in advance. When I returned from my last long-distance cycle to Nordkapp
in northern Norway, I was able to take my bicycle on a dozen trains from Scandinavia right through Germany to a port on the Dutch coast without any hassle. It wasn’t even necessary to book bicycle space in advance. Joined-up thinking is key and where it has taken place, travelling with your bicycle on a train can often be, well, as easy as riding a bike!”
Bikes on Trains: Best Rail Companies
The train comparison report was produced in conjunction with Hidden Europe. The top 3 ranked train operators were The Swiss railways, with the Austrian ÖBB in second place, and Virgin Trains West Coast in third place. Hidden Europe commented:
“Bike and train make the perfect match for day trips out into the countryside on a spring or summer’s day. So it’s good news that across many parts of Europe, it is very easy to take bikes on trains. The most creative operators will ship bikes for a modest charge and offer a good range of bike rental opportunities at railway stations. Switzerland and Austria show the way in this area. In Switzerland, cyclists are welcome on board the great majority of the country’s train services. During the busy summer months, it is possible to pre-book a place for bikes on trains in advance, often with a seat reservation for the rider in the same carriage.
“ÖBB Austrian Railways have increased its cycle-friendly offer by revamping its high-speed Railjet fleet to make space for bikes on every train.
“And congratulations to Virgin Trains West Coast for its offer to transport tandems on its Pendolino trains which earns the operator the third position (though even Virgin draws the line when it comes to shipping Penny Farthings). The whole area of bikes on trains is a hot topic and it’s been good to see carriers like Eurostar now making it very much easier for cyclists to take the train.”
If you haven’t stepped on board a European train for a while, now might be a good time to give it a go. High-speed trains link city centres in a matter of hours, with airline-style cheap fares if you book in advance, without the hassle that comes with flying.
‘The Great Train Comparison’ gives some pointers to how all rail travelers can experience the very best of European rail travel.
Speed, of course, has its own appeal, but many travelers are looking for something more. They want services geared to their particular needs and that’s why Loco2 commissioned this report. They selected 11 target audiences and researched just how well modern European train operators meet the needs of these groups. Our aim has been to understand the details of the various services on offer in order to showcase the best from across Europe. Which operator gains points for being kid-friendly? Who scores well when it comes to having good value meals available all day in its restaurant cars? Where will cyclists find a warm welcome?
The Great Train Comparison report celebrates the European train operators who are best addressing these issues and the various needs and aspirations of the different types of travelers. These are the operators whose innovation and good practice leads the way.
This is all useful news for cyclists wishing to take bikes on trains. There does seem to be a switch towards more bike friendliness amongst rail companies, as we reported in February about the German Deutsche Bundesbahn.