Train tickets and bike reservations for someone in the US

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Train tickets and bike reservations for someone in the US

Postby raybo » Thu Jul 24, 2014 1:01 am

I live in the US and have family in the UK. I am planning a bike ride Holyhead south along the Lon Las Cymru and back to Beaconsfield, my starting point.

I would like to take the train to Holyhead and start riding from there. For obvious reasons, I don't want to take my full-sized bike and panniers through London and it appears I can start in Slough and make my way up to Holyhead without having to go into London.

I will be traveling by train on September 8.

I have 2 questions:

1) What website do you recommend I use to find routes from Slough to Holyhead that don't go into London? The ones I've tried either always route me through London or have 4 train changes.

2) How do I secure bike reservations on all the routes necessary (using different train companies) from the US? It seems that going into a station or having ticket numbers are necessary and each train company requires a separate contact. I don't want to buy the tickets before I am certain I can get my bike on the train. Yet, I need to get the tickets before I can get a bike reservation or so it seems.

Any guidance would be appreciated.
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Re: Train tickets and bike reservations for someone in the U

Postby pal » Thu Jul 24, 2014 8:20 am

I'd recommend booking via eastcoast.co.uk (which is the franchise for the East Coast mainline -- London to Edinburgh, more or less -- but sells tickets for the whole UK rail network). For your qn. 1, their search tool has an 'avoid' option (click the 'more options' button to see it) -- though I should say that I've never used that feature, so I can't vouch for its effectiveness. For your qn. 2, their booking system has an option to add a bike reservation --- it appears on the page where you have an option to reserve a seat (again: it's a little bit hard to spot, but it is there: just above the place where they try to sell you some bus tickets...). You're told whether the bike space is available before you have to commit to buying the ticket. You'll be given a booking code, which you can then use to collect your tickets from a machine at the station when you get to the UK (you need to specify the station, but it shouldn't be a problem that Slough isn't an 'East Coast' station); you need to make sure you have the same credit card with you as you used to pay for the tickets.

One thing to be aware of is that all the train operators have slightly different rules about bike carriage, particularly when it comes to reservations (some -- e.g. Virgin -- absolutely insist on reservations; some -- e.g. Cross Country -- have a reservation system, but will let you on without a reservation if there's space; and some -- e.g. London Midland -- just operate a first-come-first-served policy, with no reservations at all). In other words: don't be alarmed if the booking doesn't have a bike space for every leg of the journey (but do double check that you have reservations for any bits where reservations are compulsory). Such are the joys of our privatised rail system!
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Re: Train tickets and bike reservations for someone in the U

Postby james01 » Thu Jul 24, 2014 9:44 am

My suggestion:and just one change of trains needed: cycle the short hop from Slough to Reading on Sustrans routes :http://www.sustrans.org.uk/ncn/map/route/238442,202537
Catch the Reading to Cardiff train, change in Cardiff for the Cardiff to Holyhead train - book early for a bargain, the Trainline website is showing off-peak September tickets Cardiff to Holyhead £21.00. This is quite slow, it stops at many rural stations en-route but passes through great countryside. Bikes were free when I did it a couple of years ago. I cycled the Lon-Las route Holyhead to Cardiff in 5 days carrying camping gear, not pushing too hard. It's a great trip.
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Re: Train tickets and bike reservations for someone in the U

Postby Vorpal » Thu Jul 24, 2014 9:47 am

http://www.cyclestreets.net/journey/ is a good place to start with route planning.

But I would put together a route and post it on here & ask locals / knowledgeable people to comment.
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Re: Train tickets and bike reservations for someone in the U

Postby Richard Fairhurst » Thu Jul 24, 2014 10:02 am

It can be done with one change: Slough-Hereford, Hereford-Holyhead. Tell the journey-planner to find you a route via Ledbury for these to pop up. (If it shows you two changes, one at Great Malvern and one at Hereford, that's also a good option - it's the same route and the Great Malvern change will be between two trains on the same platform.)

Ask the station staff at Hereford and they'll shepherd you across the tracks, so you don't have to lug your bike across the bridge. (There's a new bridge with lift going in, but I don't think it's open yet - might be wrong.)

But james01's suggestion of Cardiff is good too. Changing at Reading is pretty easy now that the station's redeveloped.

Very very definitely book a bike space for the Arriva Trains Wales services (i.e. Cardiff/Hereford/Crewe to Holyhead). These are little trains with limited bike space and get very busy. First Great Western (Slough/Reading to Cardiff/Hereford) have better bike accommodation but booking doesn't hurt. If you go another route and your journey takes you on a CrossCountry train, definitely book for that too.
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Re: Train tickets and bike reservations for someone in the U

Postby iviehoff » Thu Jul 24, 2014 12:59 pm

It's only about 17 miles through the lanes (mostly) from Slough (or a bit less from Beaconsfield) to Watford Junction, which is the obvious place around there to catch a train to Holyhead from, as it is on the correct railway line. Though the Holyhead trains don't stop at WJ so you will probably have to change at Milton Keynes. You could even cycle up the Grand Onion Canal for part of it, eg from Uxbridge or Denham, which is perfectly civilised though not tarred.

I recently bought a ticket for a foreign visitor with bicycle to travel from Watford Junction to Dublin via Holyhead. The through ticket to Dublin was actually cheaper than a ticket only to Holyhead, though you'd have to check some local knowledge about whether you'd have the ticket inspected if you exited at Holyhead station, as in theory you aren't supposed to do that. There was no concern about the fact that the purchaser of the ticket was different from the person travelling, even though it involved the international ferry.

To be clear - these were advance purchase tickets.
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Re: Train tickets and bike reservations for someone in the U

Postby raybo » Thu Jul 24, 2014 4:02 pm

I want to thank everyone who responded. Here are the results:

I booked an advanced tickets from Slough to Reading to Cardiff to Holyhead for £46 at the eastcoast.co.uk site with a bicycle reservation. I wasn't able to post it to my family member as the card I used was a foreign, so I will have to pick the tickets up at a station.

I decided not to ride to Reading, as I will likely do that on the way back and it doesn't add much time or trouble to the trip. I leave at 10:30, arriving in Holyhead about 18:00.
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Re: Train tickets and bike reservations for someone in the U

Postby pal » Thu Jul 24, 2014 6:45 pm

Excellent! I hope you have a great trip.
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Re: Train tickets and bike reservations for someone in the U

Postby iviehoff » Fri Jul 25, 2014 4:15 pm

But wouldn't you change at Newport rather than Cardiff? Why go from Newport to Cardiff and back again?
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Re: Train tickets and bike reservations for someone in the U

Postby raybo » Sat Jul 26, 2014 7:53 pm

iviehoff wrote:But wouldn't you change at Newport rather than Cardiff? Why go from Newport to Cardiff and back again?



I wasn't aware that this was the route the train took. I already have my (non-refundable) tickets so I will have to file this in the "mistakes before leaving" folder.

Thanks for the heads-up, anyway.
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