Runs all services in Wales and the Marches except those bound for London. Owned by the super-efficient German railway, but you’d never believe it. Their trains are little two/three-carriage units with limited bike space. In particular, the Marches line (Cardiff–Shrewsbury–Manchester and North Wales) and the North Wales Coast line are invariably overloaded and you’d be mad not to book. They have two bike spaces in the centre, but we’ve often found them stuffed with suitcases, especially on trains from Manchester Airport.
Official page on the Arriva Trains Wales website.
The ‘other’ route from London to Birmingham, from Marylebone via Banbury. Generally cheaper than Virgin, and one of Britain’s best-regarded companies. Most trains are comfortable commuter units where you can just use the vestibules. They now have a few luxury ‘Silver’ trains with a separate spacious bike compartment in the engine at one end: ask staff for help. No booking required.
Official page on the Chiltern Railways website.
Local trains in the West Midlands, and from there to London and the North-West. No booking required; some trains have a couple of spaces in the centre, or you can unofficially use the vestibules. Helpfully, London Midland publishes a list of quieter trains, where you’re more likely to be able to find space. Their services can be a good (and cheap) alternative to the hassle of booking with Virgin.
Official page on the London Midland website.
See InterCity page.