A dramatic change in Eurostar's cycle carrying policy, coming into force before the end of the year, will make it much more difficult to carry bikes to the continent by train in 2016, road.cc has learned.
Where Chunnel users can currently take their bikes away with them unboxed, where they are hung from their front wheel in a specially-designated compartment on the train, new rules mean bikes must be packaged within maximum dimensions so small most bike boxes will be rejected if the rule is enforced.
In fact all bike boxes road.cc has tested are bigger than Eurostar's size restrictions (129 x 84 x 26cm) and to fit in Eurostar's own boxes of the same size, bikes will have to be significantly dismantled before being loaded.
A Eurostar spokesperson told road.cc the changes will come into force before the end of the year, but the date has not been confirmed yet.
"In the new policy, bikes will have to go into boxes (not plastic bags), that we can supply for no additional charge. Customers with their own box / fully enclosed padded bag, can use these subject to size. It must measure no more than 129 x 84 x 26cm," said the spokesperson.
"In terms of procedure, passengers take their bike to EuroDespatch, and they must be bagged / boxed at least 60 minutes prior to departure."
However, road.cc's editor at large, John Stevenson, said the size restriction will exclude the use of all bike boxes we have tested.
"We’ve checked the dimensions of a number of popular bike cases and they are all larger than Eurostar’s specifications. Some are too long, many are too wide, but none are going to pass muster if the check-in operative gets out a tape measure.
"Eurostar appear to be expecting riders to use the type of cardboard box bikes are shipped to shops in, but without plenty of padding and very careful packing such boxes don’t provide adequate protection."
Eurostar changed its policy in 2013 from allowing customers to carry their bikes onto the train with them, to having to bring them to its EuroDespatch office at least 60 minutes before departure to be loaded into the bike carrying compartment by staff.
Road.cc was told by a Eurostar staff member the forthcoming changes were due to the configuration of new trains, but Eurostar denied this.
The spokesperson said: "This is not about space on the train, but about how we use the available space to the benefit of the majority of our customers, taking into account feedback from those that use our service overall."
The cost of carrying bikes on the trains won't change from the current £30 each way for a pre-booked bike, or £25 for the next available train service.
Eurostar's press officer, Rob Haycocks, has further responded to road.cc, below:
The piece implies that we’re making things more difficult for the cycling community, whereas the new policy enables cyclists to transport their bikes on the same train*, in a case which they can pack and is secure and protected. It also means that we can carry more bikes per train when they’re packed in this way, so for times when there are a lot of cyclists travelling this will be easier for them.
Fully mounted bikes take up a lot of room, and by packing them like this, we can fit a lot more bikes into the same space when necessary, as well as accommodating for the needs of all our other travellers.
You highlight that none of the boxes you test fit – when the Scicon and Evoc products linked to are smaller than the size needed, and will fit in the space, we carry them a lot.
Haycocks also clarified internal dimensions of the provided boxes as 126 x 79 x 25.
* This is also possible under current rules, unless the bike spaces are full.
FURTHER UPDATE: Following questions put to the company by road.cc Eurostar has changed its policy to include any boxed bike, regardless of size. Read the full article here: