Category Archives: Bike/Coach & Tram

H C S Bullock: His Life and Locomotives

Updated Second Edition!h-c-s-bullock-his-life-and-locomotives
Eighty years ago, in 1937, miniature locomotive engineer H C S Bullock died in tragic circumstances. Fifty years later, his son Kenneth was encouraged to write a book on his father’s life and work – principally his impressive 10.25-inch miniature locomotives.

A Tribute to a Great Engineer

In 2017, as a tribute to father and son, Bob Bullock has brought together new photographs. Many of these are previously unseen – and some are in colour – to produce a second edition to Ken’s 1987 book.
The update has twice as many pages and is packed with new information, with new maps of the Foxhill Miniature Railway, based on the latest research. They give a vivid new insight into this fascinating and at times heartbreaking story.

Publisher: A to B Books

BUY NOW – £11.95

Bike/Bus & Tram Restrictions (UK)

Bike/BusOur Bike/Bus page lists UK bike restrictions on UK bus, coach & tram services. Folding bikes travel free and without restriction on all coach and tram services unless stated.
If you have any official or unofficial information on cycle carriage, please
share it with us by e-mail.

We are grateful to local authorities, individual cycle users and the Cyclists Touring Club for information on cycle carriage.

Please note

  • For cycling routes near stations, visit Sustrans. Enter the station POST CODE in the blue box then click FIND. The resulting MAP shows routes close to the station.
  • Barry Doe‘s excellent National Rail map [PDF] gives a clear picture of all UK operators and routes.

Coaches & Rail-link Buses

Borders Rail Link Coach

Routes: Carlisle – Borders – Berwick
Folding bikes: tick At driver’s discretion   Tandems and tricycles: Unknown
Bicycles are not permitted. Covered folding bikes and other luggage are carried at the driver’s discretion.

National Express, Silver Choice & Megabus Coaches

Routes: National coach operator
Folding bikes: tick No restrictions, but we would always recommend keeping the bike well covered and treating as normal luggage
Tandems and tricycles: Unknown
Bicycles must be packed flat and wrapped up.

Oxford Express & Oxford Tube Coaches

Routes: London-Oxford
Folding bikes: tick No restrictions but we would always recommend keeping the bike well covered and treating as normal luggage  Tandems and tricycles: Unknown
Most buses carry up to three bikes in the luggage hold.

Rail-Air Coaches

Routes:National Rail Network Interchange Reading and National Rail Network Interchange Woking – Heathrow Airport,National Rail Network InterchangeLuton Airport Station – Luton Airport
Folding bikes: tick No restrictions   Tandems and tricycles: Bicycles and tricycles are not permitted.
Covered folding bikes and other luggage are carried at the driver’s discretion. Luton Airport is only a short ride from the new dedicated railway station. For Heathrow, we suggest taking a local Great Western train to Hayes & Harlington (from Reading), or a South West Trains service to Feltham (from Woking or Reading) – see individual entries above for restrictions. Feltham is a short distance from Terminal 4. Hayes & Harlington is convenient for Terminals 1, 2 & 3 via the cycle tunnel.

Trams & Light Rail

Croydon Tramlink

Routes:National Rail Network Interchange Croydon –National Rail Network Interchange Elmers EndNational Rail Network Interchange, Beckenham Junction, New Addington
Folding bikes: tick No restrictions   Tandems and tricycles: Unknown
A vital interchange with other public transport operators in south London. Bicycles are not carried, but folding bikes are unrestricted.

Manchester Metrolink

Routes: National Rail Network Interchange Manchester –National Rail Network Interchange Altrincham,National Rail Network InterchangeBury, Eccles, Manchester Airport & Rochdale
Folding bikes: tick No restrictions   Tandems and tricycles: No
Bicycles are not permitted, but compact folding bikes may be carried without restriction if ‘fully-folded’ and ‘fully encased’. A victory for common sense.

Midland Metro

Routes: National Rail Network InterchangeBirmingham Snow Hill – Wednesbury- Wolverhampton
Folding bikes: tick No restrictions   Tandems and tricycles: No
Bicycles are not permitted. Following a number of test-cases, Centro has confirmed that ‘fully-folded’ folding bikes will be accepted without restriction.

Tel: 0121 200 2700

Nottingham Express Transit (NET)

Routes: Nottingham cross-city tram services
Folding bikes: tick No restrictions  Tandems and tricycles: Not permitted
Although NET’s publicity leaflets and website make no mention of bikes, there are areas to lock bikes at most tram-stops (lockers at Hucknall Railway Station, nearby at Trinity Square, nearby at Fletcher Gate and at Nottingham Railway Station), but bikes are not allowed on the trams themselves. Folding bikes are welcomed though, and there is plenty of space to store the bikes, even in rush hour.

Tel: 0115 942 7777

South Yorkshire Supertram

Routes: Local services around Sheffield
Folding bikes: tick No restrictions   Tandems and tricycles: Unknown
Bicycles are not permitted. Folding bikes and other luggage are carried at the driver’s discretion. Technically folders should be covered, but you can expect to get on with an uncovered Brompton or similar micro-folder.

Stagecoach Express Coaches

Routes: Nationwide coach operator
Folding bikes: tick No restrictions and some interurban services have interior luggage space for two folded Bromptons, but we would always recommend keeping the bike well covered and treating as normal luggage
Tandems and tricycles: No, but bicycles are carried in the boot if there is room, so a tandem could be carried in theory.

Tyne & Wear Metro (Nexus)

Routes: Local services around Newcastle
Folding bikes: tick No restrictions   Tandems and tricycles: Unknown
Bicycles are not permitted. Approved folding bikes travel without restriction on all services.

Tel: 0870 608 2608

The Routemaster Bus

Routemaster BusWith most British products now designed and made elsewhere (albeit by British designers very often), we sometimes have to be reminded that we once built rather good vehicles. Every nation could unearth a few classics, but our little islands have produced a whole encyclopedia: beautiful ocean liners, graceful steam engines, grand cars, aircraft, motorcycles and of course buses.The theory behind Britain’s long love affair with the double-decker bus is that our narrow city streets made it necessary to build upwards. Perhaps, although the same could be said for any number of European cities. More likely, we just enjoyed being different.

How did London’s Routemaster bus become such an enduring icon – a symbol of the capital, recognised the world over? Although comparatively recent, the design successfully combined old and new in an alluringly British way: the open rear platform and steep stairs had their origins in the horse-drawn omnibuses of the Victorian era, but the running gear and general space-efficiency of the machine were right up to date. In terms of overall dimensions versus passenger capacity, it was a remarkable bit of packaging that may never be surpassed, and although designed and built in the 1950s and ‘60s, the Routemaster – like all the best icons – remains a strangely timeless machine.

RM1, the Routemaster prototype, was built at London Transport’s Chiswick garage in 1954, and was followed by a further three as the details were refined. In 1956 an order was placed for 850 production machines, the mechanical bits being assembled at lorry maker AEC’s factory in Southall, and the bodywork at the company’s nearby Park Royal plant. Buses gradually came into service from June 1959.

…it was a remarkable bit of packaging that may never be surpassed…

Several variants were made over the years, but the classic Routemaster was bright red (naturally), 27′ 6″ long, eight feet wide and just over fourteen feet tall. Access was via an open platform at the rear kerbside, leading to a flight of steeply curved stairs to the top deck, or a single step up to the bottom deck. Early examples had 64 seats, but from 1965, an extra centre section was added to create the RML; a shade over 30 feet long, with 72 seats.

Routemaster bus platform

The open platform was a bonus in congested central London, but the free and easy access also made them dangerous for cyclists nipping up the inside

The Routemaster may look timeless, but beneath the surface, the design was seriously cutting edge. Previous double-deckers had been built of steel and wood around a substantial steel chassis.They could be prohibitively heavy, and the Routemaster’s predecessor, the RT, was limited to 56 seats to keep the weight within limits.

Instead, the Routemaster was built around a strong, but lightweight ‘monocoque’ aluminium body, doing away with the heavy chassis altogether, at a time when such technology was considered adventurous in the car world. The AEC 115hp engine, 4- speed gearbox and suspension were bolted to subframes under the body. At 73/4 tons, the Routemaster was incredibly light for its day, and remains smaller, some two tons lighter, and more economical than similar modern buses.

The best bit for large and small boys alike was the driver’s  cab. Once again, there were Edwardian echoes, with the driver sitting in stately isolation up front, to the right of the engine. But beneath the surface, the cab bristled with innovation – independent front suspension, power steering, power-assisted hydraulic brakes, and a fully automatic gearbox. All very conventional today, but state-of-the-art for the 1950s.

Rise & Fall

Numerous design changes were made over the years. Most were very minor, but a Leyland diesel engine was tried for a while, and a faster RMC coach derivative with fewer seats and electrically-operated doors, was built in quite large numbers to race rather incongruously in and out of London, notably to Heathrow Airport.

Altogether, more than 2,800 Routemasters were produced, mainly for use in London, but with a small number going elsewhere.The last of the series of development prototypes, unveiled in 1966, was as strikingly modern as RM1, with front platform doors and a rear engine, but for political and practical reasons, the design was never put into production.Another option put forward by the design team was to put the engine under the front stairs, a brilliant bit of packaging, but nothing more was heard of the idea.

…the buses were just too cost-effective to be withdrawn en masse…

From then, as with so much of British innovation, the story was one of gradual decline, although the Routemaster, designed for a life of twenty years, was to outlive its contemporaries by a considerable margin.

Withdrawals began in the late 1970s, but the buses were just too practical and cost-effective to be withdrawn en masse. Newer one-man- operated buses saved on manpower, but caused traffic delays and were unable to dispense change or cheerful cockney travel advice like the Routemaster conductors. Although losing ground in the suburbs, the old buses clung tenaciously to the congested inner urban routes.

In the following thirty years, some 1,500 Routemasters were scrapped, but many cast-offs found a new lease of life with provincial bus companies, particularly in the cut- throat post-deregulation world, where the space- and fuel-efficiency of the design often outclassed newer machines.

In London, Routemasters were even being upgraded, 600 of them receiving new Cummins and Iveco diesel engines in the early 1990s. Privatization came and went, and still the Routemasters kept rolling. Confidence was boosted with yet another refurbishment programme between 2001 and 2004, when mayor Ken Livingstone reiterated that the Routemaster was an essential part of the London scene.There was an anniversary party in 2004, featuring numerous early examples of the marque, including RM1, still in revenue service after an astonishing 50 years. But a few months later, the mood suddenly changed, and Transport for London announced that the last buses would be withdrawn and sold by the end of 2005.

Why? It seems that buses with open platforms are becoming increasingly difficult to insure in this litigious age, and the Routemaster’s high platform was never, ever going to be wheelchair accessible. Ironically, this most space-efficient of vehicles is being replaced with so-called ‘bendy buses’ – cumbersome articulated single-deckers that occupy a great deal more of London’s precious road space.

Now past its half-century, there’s no doubt the Routemaster needs updating. As one Londoner puts it, ‘Don’t get too misty-eyed: they’re good fun if you’re fit, childless and enjoy excitement and (very) cool breezes. Everyone else is better off on the new buses.’


Blake Cotterill’s updated Routemaster design

Like most older vehicles, the Routemaster is hardly folding bike-friendly either.The tiny luggage space under the stairs is small and often jealously guarded by the conductor. Modern low-floor designs, most of which incorporate a spacious wheelchair/buggy area, are much more practical in this respect.

New Routemaster

The updated Routemaster would be broadly similar in layout, but front-wheel drive

Could a new Routemaster still emerge? One interesting proposal is the Q-Master, a strong, low-floor Routemaster update, but as with the railways (see High Speed Train, A to B 27) 11 A to B 46 the funding mechanisms and political will just don’t seem to be there any more. But a generation of young British designers is refusing to go quietly. Blake Cotterill, a student at Coventry University, has proposed an updated driver-only-operated Routemaster with front doors and a host of new technologies.This ‘hybrid’ diesel/electric machine would feature an internal combustion engine in the classic front position to aid accessibility, but the engine would drive the front wheels, giving a low floor throughout.Acceleration would be boosted by an electric motor fed from a fuel cell and/or batteries, providing regenerative braking and – once again – class-leading fuel economy.

Routemasters are set to disappear completely in the next few months unless a ‘heritage route’ reprieve is announced. At the time of writing (January 2005) the buses were still operating on seven routes:

No 13 Aldwych – Golders Green
No 14 Putney – Tottenham Court Road
No 19 Finsbury Park – Battersea Bridge
No 22 Putney – Piccadilly Circus
No 36 Queen’s Park – New Cross
No 38 Clapton Ponds – Victoria
No 159 Streatham – Marble Arch

You can help save the Routemaster.There’s plenty of information at or where more than 10,000 people have signed the online petition to date. Meanwhile, do take a last ride (preferably without a folding bike).