It was Cycling UK wot won it! Eurostar in U-turn

Cyclists will be able to take their bikes on board Eurostar without having to dismantle and box them up after all

It was Cycling UK wot won it! Eurostar in U-turn

Cycling UK is celebrating after Eurostar backed down over its controversial plans to make cyclists box up their bikes thanks to our 'Zero Stars for Eurostar' campaign.

In a resounding victory for Cycling UK and our supporters, Eurostar's Head of EU Public Affairs Pierre Delalande emailed us at 6pm today (Friday 13 November) to say: "You will be pleased to know that we are not intending to go ahead with the requirement for all bikes to be carried in boxes and will accept fully-mounted bikes."

Eurostar proposed to make cyclists dismantle and box up their bikes to travel from Sunday 1 November - a plan which sparked a public outcry across Europe.

More than 9,500 people signed up to the ‘Zero Stars for Eurostar’ campaign spearheaded by Cycling UK and the ECF (European Cyclists’ Federation).

You will be pleased to know that we are not intending to go ahead with the requirement for all bikes to be carried in boxes and will accept fully-mounted bikes."

Pierre Delalande, Eurostar

Cycling UK galvanised support from leading politicians on both sides of the Channel. The UK’s All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group criticised the move as did the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP, and the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo.

London's Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan and Cycling UK's Head of Communications and Campaigns David Murray discussed the issue in a special meeting with Mary Walsh, Eurostar's Director of Communications, at City Hall three days ago.

Now, in a victory for common sense, the high-speed train provider has decided to make a welcome U-turn.

Cycling UK Chief Executive Paul Tuohy said: "It's fantastic news that the views of so many of our members and other cyclists across Europe have been listened to. This proves how a successful, well-run campaign can be a massive force for good and make things happen.

"We at Cycling UK would like to thank everyone who supported our online action, as well as other cycling bodies across Europe, the APPCG, and the Mayors of London and Paris."

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Great to hear that the service which Eurostar was delighted to see the success of in 2010, as been secured to continue in its original form, and carriage of cycles, as cycles, aligning with a requirement passed in the Passengers Rights section of the EC Third Railway Package of legislation is being delivered in a sensible way.

In 2007, when Eurostar operations moved to St Pancras CTC secured the improvements which guaranteed your bike travelled on the same train as you did, and promoted the greatly improved facility for the baggage car concession operator (Eurodespatch in London, Geoparts in Paris, SNCB in Brussels), as a result bike bookings went up 10-fold in 3 years, but at the same time the baggage size limits (aligned with most other international EU trains) allowed a big case size of 90 x 120cm, sufficient for many cycle owners to take their bikes on the train as carry-on baggage, without the added cost of registering it as a large item, and without the need to turn up 30 minutes earlier to check in the bike.

An estimate suggests that at least 300 cycles travelled over in 2013 this way with those following le Tour alone. In 2013 the growing demand on baggage rack space (cross-channel shopping) saw Eurostar unilaterally reducing the size limits for carry on suitcases to 85 x 85 cm, smaller even than the UK domestic limit but allowing each passenger up to 2 of these cases. this of course put a greater demand on the registered service for bikes, and the very limited space available in the baggage area which the concession operators manage to the specifications set by Eurostar. In short that space is getting a bit crowded, especially when tour parties on the deluxe Grand Tour of Europe deposit a coach-load of high quality luggage to be carried for the clients, and it all goes in with the bikes.

One option which would be welcome is for Eurostar to extend the facility offered to members of the Musicians Union, to book a 'companion seat' for a valuable instrument which exceeds the tight limits now set for suitcase sizes. This would permit those with valuable bikes, which can be packed down into a sensible but small box or bag to travel in the same way. The current charges are similar to those for the registered service, but the convenience of avoiding the extra time required to register the bike as baggage, and collect it, and the limited capacity (8 bikes maximum). Of course some of you may already be MU members and will be able to make music with your bike ;) ?

The further alternative, for those who are prepared to bag-up a dismantled bike may be the express coach services offered by German Railways (DB) and French Railways - budget trains service (OuiGo) running until the EU Open Access requirement gives them the opportunity to run trains to London in competition with Eurostar, and the Megabus services which offer through routes to Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Spain, and unlike Eurostar, run overnight from London Victoria. Stagecoach do carry bikes on their express coaches, but for most cases require the bikes to be packed flat and in a bag or box, as do National Express - but not Eurolines (on services from the UK). For Megabus there is a 1 item only per passenger and weight limit of 32Kg, and a need to work with the operator to ensure space is available. Additional baggage may be carried but may be charged for - this is work in progress - watch this space. In the interim if you do travel this way, do let CTC know (or DM me) of your experience. My own personal gain came one Saturday with a 14 hour gap between trains to Scotland I used the 23.45, 7-hour, fast Megabus service to Glasgow with bike and baggage to get home.

For travel to the French Atlantic Coast or a crossing with a shorter distance to Paris ferries from Plymouth, Portsmouth and Newhaven may even offer equivalent journey times, once changing trains Paris, and the lack of overnight Eurostar services is accounted for.

We had a very positive experience with Eurostar in 2014 when we took our Pino tandem. My wife can only walk short distances, and certainly not as far as the Eurodispatch office. Before checking in at St Pancras we split the tandem into its two parts and packed it in our lightweight ripstop bags. At the right hand check-in desk I paid £10 and they took our bagged tandem from us and gave us a wheelchair for my wife. We had chosen seats close to the baggage van, so on arrival at Paris I was able to intercept the tandem as it was being unloaded, and we re-assembled it on the platform just in time to get off the platform before the next lot of departing passengers arrived.

On the homeward journey we came via Lille. The tandem was already bagged because we had arrived by TGV from Strasbourg. They told us to load the bike onto Eurostar ourselves, at no charge, just like in the old days.

We are greatly hoping that we will be treated as well on our next trip.

Now that I've today checked with Eurostar (actually it was EuroDespatch who I called and who handle the bike loading and unloading) for a proposed trip on Eurostar from Paris to London that I find out the following is the position.

- Each Eurostar train between Paris and London has space for 8 bikes.
- Of the 8, 6 have to be boxed/bagged and 2 can be left assembled.
- Eurodespatch provide a box and this is included in the price.

So I'm less impressed by the claimed outcome of the campaign as detailed in the article above. It seems the "victory" has resulted in inconvenience to 75% of cyclists rather than the proposed 100%. That's not a U-turn.

Additionally Eurostar's page ( on the carrying of bikes contains this lovely phrase :-

"We can provide a box for you, which is included in the service price and this is the best option for protecting your bike."

In other words, don't box it and you can expect damage.

In summary I'm not impressed either by the new Eurostar policy or the claimed victory by CTC; both are inadequate.