How many train companies across Europe require Brompton bikes to be put into bags before they are allowed on the train? Answer only one – Eurostar! And up to January 2016, only when travelling from London. Since this date, apparently this applies when you are travelling out from Paris, as I found to my cost in September. Brussels is still a bag-free loading station although this may well change as a result of my complaints to the staff at Paris.
What nobody in Eurostar can explain is -why is it necessary to put a Brompton in a bag? One reason I heard years ago was that without a bag it might make Japanese tourists’ luggage dirty? But why just Japanese people, and why only one way?
If it were that serious, surely management would have ensured that the rule was enforced at all three stations equally, and punished any staff who allowed an unbagged bike through.
Then there is the quality and material used in the bag. I was told that wrapping the bike in a cycling cape so that it completely covered the bike was not acceptable, since it was not a bag. I was also told that the bag had to be made of plastic. But then I was told that I could buy a bag at a bag shop just across from the Gare du Nord. So I did; the bike did not quite fit but the straps covered the offending bits sticking out, but the bag was not made of plastic. I was therefore surprised to be let through.
So I go back to the central question – what is the bag for? It if really is to protect passengers’ luggage, why then stop at folding bikes? I have seen several folding pushchairs that look oily, but have never seen them being refused entry unless it is bagged, presumably without the child inside! So if I put a small child on the folded Brompton, would it have been allowed through without a bag?
I suspect that the original reason for Eurostar putting in its rule book that all Bromptons must be bagged is because, at its launch 25 years ago, it tried to emulate airlines but with shorter check-in times. Airlines rightly need Bromptons to be bagged as otherwise they might sell get stuck on the various conveyor systems, but Eurostar’s conveyors are simple and straight through and bikes go through them very happily without being bagged – in Brussels!
So why does not Eurostar celebrate its 25th anniversary by removing this rule completely, a rule that is clearly so important that it has been ignored for 25 years in Brussels and 24 years in Paris?