Travellers' Tales: Railing against restrictions

Tom Culver recalls a time when trains carried tandem tricycles

My wife and I lived in London from 1978 but she is a country girl who didn’t really like the city. So we resolved to get out in the country every other weekend. Our means of travel was our tandem trike.

I am now amazed at the distances we cycled: east to Canterbury; north to Cambridge; west to Gloucester; and south to the New Forest. We would stop at a B&B we’d found in the CTC handbook on Saturday night, then keep riding on Sunday.

We were able to do these distances because we didn’t need to cycle home. We knew that we only had to find a railway station. We would put our trike in the guard’s van to be carried back to London. We didn’t need to book a space because nearly all passenger trains had a guard’s van and there was nearly always plenty of room. I remember 50 bikes on one train.

The privatisation of the railways destroyed this possibility. The train companies charge per person but must pay the rail provider per carriage. If their shareholders are to enjoy big dividends, they must stuff as many people as possible into as few carriages as is feasible. Guard’s vans have disappeared. Most trains carry a couple of bikes but it’s no longer practical to just turn up with your cycle and go.

If every train had a guard’s van for cycles, and there were no restrictions or requirements for boarding with your bike, cycling and rail could be the answer to inter-urban travel today.