ScotRail Highland Explorer

Introducing the UK’s first active travel carriages…

Working in partnership with Transport Scotland, we’ve launched our new ScotRail Highland Explorer carriages along Scotland’s famously scenic west coast.

These carriages have been especially designed to support active travel, by providing people with the space and storage needed to comfortably take their bikes, skis, or other sporting gear with them on their journey.

Each carriage has a total of 20 individual bike racks, as well as designated seating for 24 people.

Here's a look at the ScotRail Highland Explorer carriage interior and exterior...

What do I need to know?

The ScotRail Highland Explorer carriages run along the stunning West Highland Line from Glasgow to Oban.

Readers of ‘Wanderlust’ magazine have frequently voted this route as one of the world’s most scenic railway lines. The trains pass through some of Scotland’s most dramatic scenery, travelling through lush glens, alongside sparkling lochs, over ancient viaducts and in the shadows of mountains.

We hope to extend the service to Fort William and Mallaig in time, and eventually look at bringing the concept to all corners of Scotland.

To help you visualise the line of route, we’ve produced a handy map displaying the opportunities for onward travel with cycle routes and walking paths.

Download map

From Monday to Saturday, there is a morning and late afternoon service in both directions between Glasgow Queen Street and Oban.

On Sundays, the train leaves Glasgow Queen Street in the morning and return from Oban in the late afternoon.

Glasgow to Oban

Monday - Friday

Saturday

Sunday

10:34 – 13:43 10:33 – 13:43 09:56 – 13:04
16:36 – 19:42 16:36 – 19:42

Oban to Glasgow

Monday - Friday

Saturday

Sunday

05:21 – 08:39 05:21 – 08:39 16:11 – 19:19
14:41 – 17:49 16:11 – 19:18

You can make a reservation on the phone, online, or in person:

  • Book online when you buy your train ticket
  • Call our telesales team on 0344 811 0141 (Option 2) Monday – Friday between 9am – 5pm. If you are calling at the weekend please choose option 3 for our Customer Relations team who will make the reservation for you.
  • Visit one of our staffed stations

Cycle reservations must be made at least two hours before travel.

If you are travelling with a tandem or a larger cycle (any two wheeled cycle longer than 182cm), you will need to call our Customer Relations team, who are open Monday – Sunday from 7am -10pm on 0344 811 0141 (Option 2) by 6pm the day before travel to reserve a bike space. Please note, these spaces are limited and only available on our ScotRail Highland Explorer carriages.

Before making your reservation, please ensure that you have checked that your cycle complies with our maximum permissible dimensions:

  • Maximum permissible length 255cm.
  • Maximum permissible width of cycle body 75cm.
  • Maximum permissible width of front wheel with tyre inflated 14cm. Should your tyre measure wider, it can be deflated, so long as the rim width is no greater than the measurement, to allow the wheel to fit safely in the storage rack.

The ScotRail Highland Explorer carriage has been specially designed to make it easy for more people to use the service with a cycle.

The storage design requires you to be able to lift the front of your cycle a small amount off the ground and into the wheel restraint.

Bike in fixing loop on ScotRail Highland Explorer carriage.

Cycles in fixing loops on ScotRail Highland Explorer carriage

You may also be required to lift your cycle up or down any steps at stations served. We ask that you take this into consideration before reserving a cycle on this service.

Please be aware that due to health and safety our staff are not permitted to assist you in loading and unloading your cycle.

To ensure all cycles are secure and safe, velcro straps are provided. You may wish to use your own strap in preference to those provided. All cycles must be securely strapped prior to travel. In case of emergencies, access must be possible to all areas of the train by our staff at all times. It is not permitted to lock your cycle in any way to the train or its fixtures.

We recommend that you remove all panniers before boarding as these can often make securing your cycle difficult. They should be stored in the luggage area. If stored in the overhead luggage racks the maximum permissible width is 70cm.

If you are travelling the whole length of the service (Glasgow Queen Street to Oban, or Oban to Glasgow Queen Street) please place your cycle in a bay closest to the window to allow those cyclists travelling to intermediate stations to use the aisle spaces.

If you are travelling from Glasgow Queen Street, please arrive at least 15 minutes prior to scheduled departure of your train and report to the information booth, where our staff will provide further instructions. This is located on the station's main concourse.

The ScotRail Highland Explorer carriage has 24 seats as well as 20 cycle spaces. Seats in this carriage are reserved for those who purchase a 'Highland Explorer ticket'.

If you buy a Highland Explorer ticket, you'll benefit from the following:

  • A seat in our newly designed Highland Explorer carriage with exterior livery that encapsulates the Scottish scenery
  • A hospitality offering *
  • Larger cushioned seats
  • USB and plug socket charging points
  • Table maps on board detailing the route, with recommendations on where to walk, cycle and visit
  • Access to a QR code at each table, providing links to further inspiration on places to visit in Scotland

Those with Standard Class rail tickets will still be able to travel on this service, and they will be seated in the Class 156 carriages, which make up the rest of the train.

* Subject to availability of catering on-board

Any more questions about the ScotRail Highland Explorer and your journey? Here are all the answers you need.

We’d encourage you to book your bike space while purchasing your rail ticket. However, if you already have your train ticket, you can reserve your bike at least two hours before travel by calling our telesales team on 0344 811 0141 (Option 2) Monday – Friday between 9am – 5pm. If you are calling at the weekend, please choose option 3 for our Customer Relations team who will make the reservation for you.

Alternatively, you can visit one of our staffed stations.

Yes. As cycle spaces are really popular, particularly on the West Highland Line, customers must reserve their bike space before travelling.

There is no charge for reserving your cycle space. But as these are so popular, we ask that you only make a bike reservation on the service you intend to travel on. And if your plans change, please cancel your bike reservation as soon as possible, to allow someone else to use the space.

If your plans change, please cancel your bike reservation as soon as possible, to allow someone else to use the space.

You can change your reservation by calling our telesales team on 0344 811 0141 (Option 2) Monday – Friday between 9am – 5pm. If you are calling at the weekend please choose option 3 for our Customer Relations team who will change the reservation for you.

Yes. Children travelling with a bike will also need to book a cycle space using the same bike reservation process.

Child bikes are normally stored in the Smaller Cycles bays on board but may occasionally need to be stored in other sized bays. Please help us by using the Smaller Cycles bays for child’s cycles if they are available.

You may wish to bring your own additional velcro strap to secure the child’s cycle to the accompanying adult’s cycle.

Seats in the ScotRail Highland Explorer carriage will be reserved for those who have specifically booked a Highland Explorer ticket.

When you purchase a Standard Class rail ticket on this service, you will be given the option to reserve a cycle space on board, subject to availability. The 20 cycle spaces on the ScotRail Highland Explorer carriage will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, with priority given to those who have booked a Highland Explorer ticket - specifically for this carriage.

There are a further 6 cycle spaces available on the Class 156 carriages, which make up the rest of the train.

If you book a Standard Class rail ticket, your seat will not be in the ScotRail Highland Explorer carriage. Instead you can enjoy the journey from our Class 156 carriages, which make up the rest of the train.

If you purchase a Highland Explorer ticket, you will be seated in the same carriage as your bike.

A Highland Explorer ticket includes:

  • Larger cushioned seats
  • A hospitality offering*
  • USB and plug socket charging points
  • Access to table maps detailing the Highland Explorer route, with suggested places to walk, cycle and visit
  • Access to a QR code at each table providing links to further inspiration on places to visit in Scotland

* Subject to availability of catering on-board

Yes, you will be able to access the ScotRail Highland Explorer carriage throughout the train journey.

For a booking of 9 people or less, you should follow our normal cycle reservation process.

For bookings of 10 or more, please contact our group booking telephone line on 0344 811 0141 or email [email protected]

Cycle reservations are linked to the ticket you purchase. When you book for a number of people, you will be given the option to add on a cycle reservation for each person travelling. These are subject to availability on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you have a Highland Explorer ticket, your cycle will be stored in the ScotRail Highland Explorer carriage on the train. The exterior of this carriage has been decorated to make it easy to spot from the station platform.

For those with Standard Class rail tickets and cycle reservations, you can load your bike in either the ScotRail Highland Explorer carriage (subject to availability), or on the limited cycle spaces available on the Class 156 carriages, which make up the rest of the train.

The ScotRail Highland Explorer carriage will be situated at the front of the train when travelling north - from Glasgow Queen Street to Oban.

The carriage will be situated at the rear of the train for services heading south - from Oban to Glasgow Queen Street.

Highland Explorer carriage exterior

If you have a Highland Explorer ticket, you should board the train via the ScotRail Highland Explorer carriage, where your cycle will be stored. Once you have secured your bike onboard, you can make your way throughout the train. This exterior of the Highland Explorer carriage has been decorated to make it easy to spot from the station platform.

If you have a Standard Class rail ticket and a cycle reservation, you can board the train via the ScotRail Highland Explorer carriage, where your cycle will be stored. Then, once you have secured your bike onboard, you can make your way throughout the train. Alternatively, you can board the train via the Class 156 carriages – which make up the rest of the train - and store your bike in the limited cycle spaces available here.

The ScotRail Highland Explorer carriage will be situated at the front of the train when travelling north - from Glasgow Queen Street to Oban.

The carriage will be situated at the rear of the train for services heading south - from Oban to Glasgow Queen Street.

Highland Explorer carriage exterior

If help is needed to load your bike onto the train, ramps are available on request. From there, you will be able to secure your bike in the cycle spaces. It’s necessary to be able to lift your bicycle yourself. Due to health and safety, our staff are unable to assist with lifting bikes, so please bear this in mind when considering booking a space.

The racks on the Highland Explorer carriage allow you to wheel your bike, and then lift it slightly into the fixing loop.

A cyclist wheeling his bike into the fixing loop on the Highland Explorer carriage

Velcro straps are provided onboard the train. You may wish to use your own strap in preference to those provided. All cycles must be securely strapped prior to travel.

Additional locks are not required. In case of emergencies, access must be possible to all areas of the train by our staff at all times. Therefore, it is not permitted to lock your cycle in any way to the train or its fixtures.

For peace of mind, CCTV will also be in operation within the carriage throughout the journey.

Customers should listen out for the on-train and station announcements to have their bikes ready to board and/or depart before the train comes to a stop. This will help the train to run on time.

Yes, there are a limited number of spaces onboard the ScotRail Highland Explorer carriage that can accommodate tandems.

Tandem must be reserved by 18:00 the day before travelling by calling our Customer Relations team on 0344 811 0141 (Option 2) Monday – Sunday between 7am – 10pm. If you are calling at the weekend please choose option 3 for our Customer Relations team who will make the reservation for you.

You must remember to specify when booking that you are travelling with a tandem.

Larger cycles are any two wheeled cycle longer than 182cm and up to the maximum permissible length of 255cm.

No. Currently we cannot carry any tricycles.

Yes, we welcome electric cycles (e-bikes) onboard. These should be booked following the usual cycle reservation process.

Yes. We encourage you to charge your electric (E-Bike) before travelling but there is an electric charging point available on the ScotRail Highland Explorer carriage for anyone who needs to use it. You must bring your own charging power adaptor and cable with you to use this. To prevent damaging the trains electrical circuit, E-Bikes can only be charged using the dedicated E-Bike charging socket. This is clearly identified on board with a special E-Bike charging socket sign.

No. We don’t allow motorbikes or mopeds, including electric mopeds on any of our services.

Yes. Before making your reservation, please ensure that you have checked that your cycle complies with our maximum permissible dimensions:

  • Maximum permissible length 255cm.
  • Maximum permissible width of cycle body 75cm.
  • Maximum permissible width of front wheel with tyre inflated 14cm. Should your tyre measure wider, it can be deflated, so long as the rim width is no greater than the measurement, to allow the wheel to fit safely in the storage rack.

If you wish to leave your bike at a station along the line of route, you can use our cycle spaces. You can check each station's cycle spaces here.

Space upon ScotRail Highland Explorer carriage is limited and anyone who requires the use of a wheelchair throughout their journey or has reduced mobility, should not book a ScotRail Highland Explorer ticket. Instead, you can book a Standard Class rail ticket and travel on the Class 156 carriages, which make up the rest of this train service.

If your Highland Explorer service is cancelled or disrupted, ScotRail will make arrangements for you and your bicycle to be rebooked onto another service (if available) or to use rail replacement services for you and your cycle.

Where rail replacement services are used this means that you and your cycle will not travel on the same vehicle. Paniers and other belongings or valuable accessories must be removed from your bicycle and carried with you. Your cycle will be transported by our contracted Supplier. When accepting your bike back from the Supplier, it is your responsibility to inspect for any damages and raise this at the time. If there is no claim for damages raised at the point of the bike/accessories being returned to you, then no claim can be made to either ScotRail or the Supplier for damages.

For now, the ScotRail Highland Explorer carriages only run between Glasgow Queen Street and Oban.

We are planning for these to operate between Glasgow Queen Street and Fort William/Mallaigin the future and, in time, we hope to extend this to other routes across Scotland. More details on this will be provided at a later date.

Fancy a trip on our ScotRail Highland Explorer?
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