Bikes on Trains…. again

I’ve blogged about the problems I’ve had with taking my bike on a train before (here), and once again I’m the victim of the vagaries of Virgin Trains.

Last week I tried to catch the 17:38 train from Wigan to Lancaster, with my bike. I had a bike reservation, so no problem. I would never try to take a bike on a train without a reservation, unless the company don’t do them (here). The train was a little delayed, but not enough for a refund. The platform staff were all ready to unlock the bicycle storage compartment, when the train manager said ‘no more bikes’. Both myself and the platform staff mentioned that I had a reservation, but the moron on the train wasn’t having any of it. He’d let a load of people on with bikes who didn’t have reservations.

If that happens it’s quite simple. One of the people without a bike reservation gets off the train and I get on. I’ve seen it happen in the morning at Preston, where someone without a reservation had to make way for four bikes, who had reservations.

The unsympathetic train manager suggested that I get the next train. Great idea, except I don’t have a reservation for that train, and I’ll have to wait another 45 minutes. I wasn’t happy. The platform staff told the train manager that he was in the wrong, but there was nothing more they could do. As I watched the train roll out of the station without me, one of the platform staff got on the radio to get me a reservation for the next train. He also told me that he wouldn’t let the train leave the station without me on it. They couldn’t have been more helpful. Complete opposite of the tosser on the train.

At Wigan today, the platform staff asked me it I’d complained. I had, but hadn’t had more than an automated response, so he told me to complain again. Not a good system, although to be fair to Virgin, they do appear to be the best of a bad lot.

Train Refunds

Did you know that if your train is delayed you can claim a refund? I had been taking a train almost every day for a few months before I found out about this. How much refund depends on how late the train is, with a full refund only available if the train is over two hours late. I probably missed out on £20-30 of refunds in three months.

Some train companies give refunds if the train is 15 minutes late, including some Virgin services, but not the one I use.

The first time that I applied for a refund was at the end of January. I Googled Virgin Train refunds, found the correct website, filled in my details and uploaded a photo of my tickets. A day later I received an email telling me that I’d not provided the correct information, and that I needed to supply proof. Seeing as I had given them a photo of my ticket, along with details of my booking number from Trainline, I asked what I had missed. No reply was forthcoming, but a week later I received a cheque for £8.25. The second time, I supplied the same information as before, and received a cheque for £4.13 a week later.

The cynic in me would suggest that the first time that you apply for a refund, Virgin automatically send an email saying that you’ve not supplied the correct details, hoping that most people will be put off.

Although, it’s cliched to be cynical about Virgin Trains.

Bikes on Trains

Taking your bike on a train, it sucks, doesn’t it. Not in mainland Europe, obviously, but in the UK. I have the misfortune to have to take my bike on a train every week, and the experience is nothing like the photo below, which is from Germany.

german-train

It’s a pain booking your bike onto the train, as it can’t be done online, and you have to already have a ticket for your journey. If you’re unlucky you could buy a ticket and then find that there’s no space for your bike, and hope that you can then swap your ticket. Of course some trains can’t be booked onto, so you have to take your chance, and if it’s busy you might be left on the platform.

You might not be able to get off the train either. The Virgin East Coast trains which I use, someone else has to open the door. It’s the duty of the train manager to ensure that you get off the train. Most times they leave it to the platform staff.

What if they forget. Don’t laugh, it happened to me. By the time that I realised that no-one was going to open the door, it was too late, and I was off to Warrington. The train manager was very apologetic and gave me a free coffee (wow!), but Virgin didn’t give me a refund. At Warrington I caught the next train back to Wigan. Since then I have made a point of seeing the train manager, making sure he knows that I’m on the train. As a back-up, I have a route plotted in my Garmin to direct me from Warrington to Leigh. I don’t want to go to Warrington again, although it could be worse if I couldn’t get off in Lancaster on my way home.

Talking with the train manager isn’t always enough, as only a couple of weeks ago I had to dash through the train, pushing my way paste people who had just got on, and then wave to a member of staff to get them to open the door for my bike. Very stressful for a little Beardy.

And, don’t get me started on trying to get a refund. I’ll save that for another post, and I will try to be a little lest ranty.