Eurostar re-opens cycle carriage service

Eurostar re-opens cycle carriage service

At the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, Eurostar was forced to close its oversized luggage service. As well as allowing passengers to transport large bulky items, this was also the main way to transporting cycles on the train service. This service is now returning between London and Paris, and joins the Eurotunnel service operating out of Folkestone for cycle-rail travellers wishing to reach the European continent.

*** THIS ARTICLE WAS UPDATED 23 JANUARY 2023 TO REFLECT EUROSTAR REOPENING THEIR CYCLE CARRIAGE SERVICE***

After nearly three years of no cycle carriage due to the impact of the pandemic, and the inherent difficulties of managing an international service over four borders with different entry policies relating to the coronavirus, Eurostar’s oversized luggage carriage service will now reopen for journeys between London and Paris from 25 January for passengers boxing their own bikes. There is no news about cycle carriage on their other services. 

Cycling UK is in frequent discussion with Eurostar about its cycle carriage arrangements. According to Eurostar, the twin pressures of the post-coronavirus ramp-up and Brexit made the transportation of oversized luggage, including cycles, unfeasible at the moment, and the planned reopening for early summer 2022 was postponed.

Cycling UK has good reason to believe Eurostar is doing all it can to reopen this service in the near future to other destinations, and will update this page, our members and the cycling community as soon as the cycle carriage reopens. However the charity does not see the current level of service as adequate for the long run. 

Other alternatives exist if you want to travel through the "chunnel". The Eurotunnel cycle carriage service from Folkestone has reopened and will carry rider plus cycle for £35 each way. Their service will also carry tandems and charges per saddle regardless of numbers of riders, and trailers too may incur a cost depending on their size. The service operates once a day and requires reportedly a minimum of 10 days for booking, and will not accept on the day travel. 

The other main ways using public transport to reach the European continent with your bike are likely to be by ferry or flying. Certain long distance bus services, such as Blablacar Bus and the Bike Express may also carry cycles.

Eurostar has confirmed, however, that it is also looking to develop an online booking tool for bike carriage and will make all efforts to consult the cycling community, including Cycling UK, over this.

Currently when booking travel with Eurostar, if you are travelling with a bike, this needs to be registered as oversized luggage, and booking is a two-tier process. You must book either your train ticket first, and call or email (travelservices@eurostar.com) separately to see if there was space on the train you wanted to take, or vice versa. If there is no space on your chosen train for your bike, it is possible that it can travel on an earlier train and be available for collection upon your arrival. 

Cycling UK hopes a new system will streamline the whole process, making reserving space for your bike as simple as booking your ticket, but does not expect it to be introduced at the same time as when the oversized luggage service returns.

Other ways to travel with your bicycle is if it is a fold-up, like a Brompton, or it can be broken down (through the use of S and S couplings, for example) so that both types of bike fit into cases that are no more than 85cm long.

With the return of the oversized luggage service, currently you can only transport your bike when boxed and according to reports only if you use your own box. Eurostar in the past provided boxes and the tools to break down your bike at its stations in London and Paris (and Brussels when this service renews), or alternatively you can use your own bike bag or box – and thanks to work by Cycling UK it will be recognised as ‘luggage’ rather than as a ‘bike’. 

Eurostar has a pricing structure designed to encourage people not just to book their seats early but also their bike places (the booking process for bikes should remain the same, as described here). The benefit is that you should have an increased chance of having your bike travel with you on the same train – something which is less likely the closer you book your ticket and bike place to when you want to travel. 

It’s still not cheap to take a non-folding bike with you on Eurostar. However, if you’re a Cycling UK member and willing to use one of Eurostar’s boxes for carrying your bike, so long as you book in advance it shouldn’t cost you much more than an oversized suitcase.

Prices below were true pre-pandemic, but Cycling UK has heard from travel writer and photographer Rae Hadley, that Eurostar has changed its pricing to £60 if booked within a 48 hour window of train travel, or £45 before 48 hours.

Eurostar cycle carriage fees pre-coronavirus (future fees to be confirmed)

Time before departure

180 to 121 days

120 to 61 days

60 days or less

Eurostar box

£30

£35

£40

Eurostar box (Cycling UK members)

£25

£30

£35

Fully Assembled

£35

£45

£55

Even if you have your own cycle box or bag, it can be cheaper to use Eurostar’s own box if you book in advance (especially if you are Cycling UK member), unless you can break your bike down into a bag less than 85cm – in which case you could well save yourself some money and bring it with you as part of your carry-on luggage.

Bulky luggage (more than 85cm)

Normal registered luggage (less than 85cm)

£40

£30

It’s worth bearing in mind that these charges are only for Eurostar travel between London, Paris and Brussels, and also on the direct train from London to Amsterdam departing from St Pancras International at 08:31 only. The other Eurostar destinations do not take either oversized luggage or bikes as they lack the necessary security measures for scanning.

Returning from Amsterdam to London, and connecting in Brussels, you’re advised to allow 90 minutes for the train changeover if travelling with your bike – and also to make sure your bike is bagged when travelling on the Thalys train to Brussels. For more information check the Eurostar website.

If you’re a Cycling UK member and want to access your discount for travelling with Eurostar (when oversized luggage is permitted once again), head to the member benefits page and don't forget your travel insurance. Members of Cycling UK receive 15% off Yellow Jersey’s travel insurance which has been designed specifically for cyclists. It will provide you with all of the usual benefits you would expect from travel insurance but crucially will cover your medical expenses should you need it. 

 

Couriering your cycle

If you're still keen to travel by train to your final destination, one (expensive) alternative to Eurostar is couriering your cycle. First Luggage (which operates in conjunction with Eurostar) or other couriers are available.

Although expensive, it does have the advantage that your cycle can be transported direct from your front door to your destination. This is particularly valuable for those travelling through Paris, as it saves the hassle of potentially having to assemble your bike and disassemble it again to make the cross-town journey from Gare du Nord to whatever rail terminal your onward journey may continue from.

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