… several in fact.
I’m glad now that I decided to pop into the station yesterday to pick up my tickets to Manchester rather than waiting until just before I caught the train tomorrow. Because I hadn’t realised that I would have to wait while the little machine spat out 14 of them, for one simple return trip for me and my bike.*
When the second Cycling Embassy of Great Britain meeting was planned for Manchester I was happy because I knew it was a relatively simple journey for me and I didn’t even bother trying to book until a week or so ago. But that was because I hadn’t counted on the dreaded engineering works. By the time I did get around to booking I found that my simple one-change journey had turned into an epic monster trip complete with ‘replacement’ bus service – which meant no way of bringing my bike – and arriving at Bigtown station just shy of midnight. Further investigation revealed that there was some sort of football match on in the city that day, making accommodation hard to come by. I was faced with a choice of attending the meeting without a bike – again – making joining in on the infrastructure safari a little difficult, or staying overnight in a city centre hotel at a minimum price of £100.
Fortunately the wisdom of the internet prevailed, and after toying with the idea of coming back the scenic way via the Settle-Carlisle line, I managed to get an offer of a sofa from a kind and hopefully not too murderous stranger. Not only that, but I discovered that you can book your bike onto any train in the UK through the East Coast Main line website without any of the normal to-ing and fro-ing that that entails (the not-at-all helpful National Rail site just puts a little cycle symbol next to every train which means that the train company in question has a cycle policy. What that cycle policy is, is up to you to find out by clicking each individual company’s name. Normally it involves ringing a premium rate number AFTER you have booked your own train in order to find out whether your bike can come with you too. Given that most trains have very limited capacity for carrying bikes, this may be a risk you don’t want to take if you’re buying an Advanced ticket. I really wish I was making this up). I’ve got to catch three trains, run by three different operating companies, only one of which (take a bow Scot Rail) allows you just to take the damn bike on the train already. Although it also reserves the right not to allow you to take the bike on the train if it’s full, which may end up being a problem…
So anyway, yay! for Twitter, yay! for EastCoast Mainline and boo! to everyone else, hopefully non-murderous strangers excepted. Now all I have to do is figure out a foolproof way of attaching four reservation tickets to my bike and actually get to Manchester for the meeting.
What could possibly go wrong?
* Outward and return halves, four seat reservations for me, and four for my bike, consisting of two halves each, one for me and one for the bike.