Public Transport

Despite the efforts of the EU and national governments to introduce competition into public transport there are still national organisations running railways in Europe. The well-documented problems following British privatisation should have been a warning to other EU politicians and transport planners not to break something that worked. However most high-ranking politicians and civil servants tend to fly from meeting to meeting rather than travel by train. They tend to see any crackpot idea that offers increased private gain and reduced public investment as progress rather than a poorer deal for both traveller and taxpayer.

There is a European railway web site, which links to each railway system. In addition each national railway system swops data with the others. Thus it is possible to work out how to travel from Niederbain sur Moselle to Bogsworthy Junction via Toccata and Fugue Halt. We have even used the German Railways website to get timetable information when travelling in Britain from Walkden to Lancaster. However beware, the Überwebsite uses data from other railway system and if this info is garbage that is what you get.

If you are travelling via London then Seat 61, www.seat61.com, Mark Smith’s website functions as a European web site. If you dig into his links and follow the methods he suggests, it is possible to travel far and wide by train at reasonable prices. Do not forget however to check whether the trains he suggests will take a bicycle unless you intend to take a folding bike. 

Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) is the best public transport website (www.bahn.co.uk) in the world. Its timetable information in English, French, German and Italian can be used to plan journeys all over Europe. Information on cheap travel in Germany can be found by clicking on this link. In our experience it is worth clicking on the "Offers" page when looking for cheap travel.

The bus market in Germany has blossomed since last year when the restrictions on long-distance bus routes designed in the 1930s to protect the railways were removed. Some bus companies offer bicycle transport, but not the Deutsche Bahn IC busses. The www.checkmybus.de website offers information about bus routes and bicycle transport. It is in German and English and easy to use.

Swiss Railways www.sbb.ch/en A good website in English, French, German and Italian. It offers excellent timetable information. As an added extra you can book hotels and check the weather in your Swiss holiday resort

French Railways (SNCF and regional services TER) French Railway services are divided into two groups: Main line and regional services. If you only wish to travel a short distance you can click on a link on the SNCF home page that leads to a map of France to allow you select your region of interest. Not all but some of the main line services will take bicycles, including some of the high speed TGVs, whereas about 95% of all regional trains do. You can find out which mainline trains take bikes by clicking on conditions of service (in French) or check the SNCF bike site as well (in French). (Do not bother downloading the films. They tell you very little.) The English language conditions of service do not mention this. Probably no Frenchman expects les Rostbifs to know anything about cycling, although things might be changing since the Tour de France 2012, though we don't want to rub this in. If there is room in your train of choice you can pop your bike on the train and away you go. It is advisable to reserve places on long distance trains beforehand. One word of warning though, mainline trains do not take tandems.

You can travel with your bike on the railways internally in the Netherlands (NS) (www.ns.nl) on most trains during non-peak hours. You have to buy a ticket and your bike needs one as well (6 Euro a day). You cannot travel on inland trains with your bike during the weekday morning and evening rush hours: (6:30 to 9 am and 4:30 to 6 pm), except during July and August when the Dutch migrate to other countries. There is a list of international trains offering bike places on the international section of the web site. Some of these like those from Venlo to Cologne or Heerlen to Aachen are local commuter trains that cross borders, but there are also trains to faraway places such as Berlin, Munich and Zurich. Putting your bike on an international train will cost you 12 Euro for a single ticket and 24 Euro for a return ticket at the time of writing. The web site is clear and easy to use in English and also in Dutch (I assume, though our Dutch is limited to "Let Op!" - beware!).

The Belgian railways (SNCB//NMBS) web site (www.b-rail.be) is available in Flemish, French, English and German. There are places for bikes on most Belgian trains. Unfortunately most high speed trains, Thalys and ICEs only take partially dismantled and bagged bikes.

There are two bike tickets:

  • a one way trip using the 5 Euro "cycle card and tandemcard" for a bicycle/tandem (+ a trailer).
  • a "one-day card" (libre-parcours d'un jour) which lets you take your bicycle/tandem (+ a trailer) on the train for 8 Euros all day long anywhere in the country.

You can buy the former online from the domestic website, but not the latter. 

For information about travelling by public  transport in Austria, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, check out our European public transport pages, (http://atob.org.uk/bike-cycle-europe-travel-guide-1.html) part of the atob website.

Return to Useful Stuff


copyright: Judith & Neil Forsyth, Konrad-Adenauer-Allee 51A, D 68519 Viernheim