Cycling by train

One of the problems I have to deal with each day is to cross the River Mersey during rush hour. I’m not allowed to cycle through either of the tunnels and the ferry only runs every half an hour so the realistic choice is to take the underground train.

For a cyclist this poses a few problems; firstly, most of the lifts are tiny and to reach several of the platforms you have to take two lifts or one lift and a staircase. A greater problem are the trains themselves, most trains are comprised of three carriages and each carriage has two pairs of doors dividing the carriage in to three sections. The step up on to the train can be as much as 25-30cm (12″) which causes problems for anyone carrying a large object, or anyone with any sort of mobility issue.

In the first and last carriages of the train there are spaces for two bicycles (provided they have a short wheelbase, my Gazelle commuting bike doesn’t fit.)

Though, as you can see there are fold away chairs in the bicycle storage area and they are frequently occupied even when other seats are empty. The layout of the train is not conducive to carrying a bicycle, the doors are in the centre of the carriage, which is good, but there are partition walls as you can see above, narrow aisles and front/rear facing seats.


At peak times there is frequently not enough room to get a bike on board leaving cyclists on the platform and waiting for the next train.

This seems to go against the tide of opinion as pretty much every major metro system in the world uses a different layout, one that has seats perpendicular to the direction of travel and with a wide aisle.




Rio de Janeiro


New York









Perhaps there are logistical reasons why Merseyside needs the front rear layout or more seats per carriage. It’s the same standard gauge width that the rest of the metro systems run on so that’s not it. It’s longest route is about 40km, not particularly lengthy.

I know Merseyrail are currently in the procurement stage of replacing the fleet by 2019. Let’s hope they do the bleeding obvious and choose a layout like  most other metro rail services, allowing more people to get on each train with more space. This might also increase the number of people using the services and help keep fares down.


10 thoughts on “Cycling by train

  1. Keep in mind that a lot of places you list probably don’t even allow bicycles on the train. You know that London does not, I know that Berlin does not (at least that’s what I remember from having lived there for a long time). Even though Merseyrail is not perfect, we should still acknowledge that their attitude towards cyclists is much better than many commuter train systems.

    In my experience, asking people occupying the fold-down seats in the bicycle storage politely to move is always successful. The argument of “where do you want me to stay with my bike instead? In the way of all other passengers?” works wonders if they are reluctant to move, even at busy commuter times.

    • Sorry posting a rather late response to this but I’ve just come back from Berlin and can provide some info. Bikes are allowed on the regional trains, S-Bahn trains and trams. They are allowed on the U-Bahn trains but only on certain routes, and from what I gather they were the ones that didn’t go through the centre of the city.

  2. Hi there just discovered your blog off the Merseyside cycle campaigns , google groups email,
    Firstly as for new trains, they will probably be chinese manufacture, and probaly have no corridor connections just a large bellows arrangement as on the newer london tube stock, so loading and moving down the train should be easier, also the merseyrail trains where designed in the 70 ,s and are now quite old, a better arrangement would have dedicated the part behind the driver now occupied by the diasabled bay for cycles, but obviously the wheels intrude into this space.
    Finally london transport DO ALLOW cycles on underground trains,you just need to check their web site.

  3. Yeah, Merseyrail does at least allow bike.. The Newcastle / Sunderland Metro have a very strict ‘Zero bikes’ policy. The driver of the train won’t leave the station if you try to sneak a bike on…

  4. I’d like to point out that the ferry runs every 20 minutes from Seacombe from about 7am – 9.40am and every 30 minutes from 4pm up to 6.45 from Liverpool. The trip from Seacombe to Liverpool takes about 7 minutes.
    It is also the cheapest route across the river (£2.70 return or £11.50 for a weekly ticket). You’ll also be able to stash your bike anywhere as there’s loads of room, even on the busiest commuter runs between 8 and 9. You will also get free tea of coffee, a more pleasant atmosphere as everyone chats to each other, including the guys on the boat. No angry ticket office employees like at most Merseyrail stations or aggressive bus drivers. You also get fresh air, a far more relaxing environment and the boat rarely gets held up, and if it does, you know when it can carry on as you’ll see the boat that’s in the way moving along the river.

    Come and join us. You’ll be far better off heath wise and a lot less angry and frustrated.

    • Hi Dave,

      I have taken the commuter ferry many hundreds of times over the last ten years, unfortunately it doesn’t really run to my schedule these days. I work long hours and start and finish at different times each day, the last thing I want is to get to the ferry just as it leaves and have to wait half an hour for another. Maybe they should make the ferry ticket usable on the underground between James St and Hamilton Sq.

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