Norfolk is a great place to explore by bike. Tony Clarke explains the ins and outs of taking your bike on the county’s train network
Local rail companies
The majority of trains in Norfolk and Suffolk are operated by Greater Anglia. The Norwich/Peterborough/Liverpool service is operated by East Midland Trains. There are two preserved railways in Norfolk; North Norfolk Railway (Sheringham to Holt) and Mid Norfolk Railway (Wymondham to Dereham).
Greater Anglia operate a fleet of modern trains on local and InterCity lines with a capacity of six bikes per train. The East Midlands rolling stock is older, cramped, and have only two cycle spaces available.
Bikes on trains
Bikes are carried free by the two major operators. The preserved railways make a charge.
Bikes have to be prebooked on the Norwich/London Liverpool Street and on all East Midland services. No booking is required on local services. Booking is not usually required for folding bikes similar to the Brompton.
There are restrictions on non-folding bikes on rush hour services to Cambridge which may affect trains running though to Stansted Airport. There are also restrictions at Liverpool Street and Stratford.
Making a booking
If you are planning a rail trip with your bike it is best to make the cycle booking first before buying your ticket. Bookings cannot be made on line; only by telephone or in person at a station with a manned ticket office. The telephone number for Greater Anglia is 0345 600 7245 (select option 8). Please provide 24 hours’ notice. For East Midland Rail phone 0345 712 5678.
Boarding the train
Cycle bookings have two tickets; one to fix to the bike and one to accompany your ticket.
The cycle compartments on Greater Anglia trains are marked with a green band above the windows and usually a white outline of a cycle on the window. Station staff will help you to find the compartment or the best place to wait on on the platform. Some larger stations, such as Diss, have signs indicating the best position to wait.
If when you board the train there are already cycles in place, it may be helpful to ask where the other cyclists are planning to leave the train and to place the bikes in the best order. This could be helpful, rather than trying to sort out bikes at a quick stop at a country station.
Sometimes other passengers will stack luggage, pushchairs etc. in the cycle storage area. This can be a problem particularly on East Midlands trains but the ticket collector/guard will arrange for them to be moved.
There are several stations in Norfolk and Suffolk where the platforms are too short to accommodate the modern trains and the doors of the cycle compartment will be locked. It’s helpful to check with station staff or train crew and to move you bike to the next carriage at the stop before. You should stay with your bike on the short journey between the stations.
There has been a problem at Wymondham station for many years with access to the down platform. Passengers have to climb up the footbridge and carry bikes, pushchairs etc.
Some smaller stations are request stops; if you want to get off there you must make it known to the train crew.
Greater Anglia have a useful app which allows you to check departures from individual stations.
Buying the best ticket
The best way to reduce the cost of tickets is to buy a railcard. There are many different types available which offer up to 30% reduction. It is possible to save the annual cost of a card on one journey. Further information here: Trainline -find the right digital Railcard for you.
The next best approach is to book online and to look at the price for particular times of day and even alternative days. If you are booking online make sure that you are not being charged a fee on top of the ticket costs.
Another useful tip is to look at split ticketing on long distance journeys; check ticket costs for each stage of a trip involving changes. This is particularly relevant on any journey via Peterborough.
Travelling via London may be cheaper and quicker but you may need to check the individual train companies cycle policy.
It can also pay to check out the costs of Day Rover or similar tickets. The Anglia Rover day ticket allows travel on any train (subject to some restrictions). You can take a train to one station and ride to another to return.
Some railway companies have special Rover tickets which allow unlimited travel in their operating area for three or four days in seven. It’s worth looking into this if you are planning a holiday.
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