On our first Eurostar trip, my wife and I got upgraded to First Class. Since then, she refuses to travel by plane even though we have been slumming it in Second ever since. King's Cross is just across the road from St Pancras, which makes travel from Scotland and the North East a doddle. My daughter used to live in France, and on my return from visiting her I could get an early morning bus in Vendôme to the TGV, change in Paris and London, and be back in Scotland in time for tea. Flying could be quicker and Paris CDG is even more horrible than Heathrow.
The biggest positive, obviously, is making it a lot easier for people to travel to Europe. For example, day trips to Paris and Brussels are now feasible. To see on the same St Pancras destination board Bedford, Brighton, Beckenham Junction, Broadstairs and Brussels is wonderful.
One of the best things Eurostar has done to date is the introduction of through-ticketing at both ends, so it is now possible to obtain a ticket from Inverness to Nice. These tickets also offer protection if trains are delayed (ie. you can always travel on the next available service). The Marseille and Lyon service, starting in May, will be interesting. If it is successful this will lead, hopefully, to further destinations beyond Paris.
John Potter (publisher) and Chris Woodcock (editor), European Rail Timetable
Eurostar offers the deep joy of just turning up, scanning your ticket and passing through the security and passport control checks, with no concern about a little plastic bag of mini-toiletries and none of the fiddling about.
Luggage must meet size limits but there's no weight restriction, thus putting an end to dancing on the scales at home. Because all passport and immigration checks are completed before departure, there's no groan-worthy immigration line and no worries about (and time wasted) transferring into the city from a far-flung airport. Step off the train in the centre of Paris, et voilà!
I have used Eurostar a couple of times, and have mixed feelings. The first was in 1998, when my ferry to Amsterdam was cancelled. I arrived in Amsterdam 20 minutes before the boat-train would have got there, and was amazed by the smoothness of Eurostar, barely a ripple on the surface of my beer at maximum speed! Compared with the high-speed train up from Exeter, on which my coffee had fallen off a table, it was miraculous.
Then there was my second time, with some Canadian friends in 2009, and the trip was almost completely ruined by the security at London St Pancras, and the packed train.
To my West Country mind, Eurostar's major failing is that it is London-centric, handy for capital dwellers but next to useless for us country bumpkins. The likes of easyJet, Ryanair and Flybe are far from my favourite means of travel, but the economics and convenience they offer far outweigh anything Eurostar can deliver.
Mind the gaps
Mind the gaps
I'm also a Eurostar sceptic, principally from finding that booking and catching this train is little different from booking and catching a flight – with yield-managed fares, compulsory booking and check-in. You can't entirely blame Eurostar; Simon Calder mentions the security theatre and high track-access charges as impediments to cross-Channel passenger trains. He could also have mentioned that, due to the security theatre, these trains are forbidden from carrying UK domestic passengers. This is probably the main reason why "regional Eurostar" trains never happened: there isn't the market for, say, Manchester to Paris on its own, but if the train could carry fare-paying Manchester to London passengers, then it could maximise its revenue along all parts of the journey. Indeed this is how train services normally work.
Another factor is the gold-plated safety regulations, under which only very long trains, built to very specific standards, can run. Yet there is no reason, in principle, why standard commuter trains should not run through the Channel Tunnel; they do run through other, longer rail tunnels. It would be nice to hop on a train (as a foot passenger) near the Channel in southern Kent and arrive in northern France. However (likely because of security) there is no proper "local" cross-Channel passenger train service. Eurostar has one train a day between Ashford and Calais. To have such a limited service between neighbouring stations on a main line is bizarre.
Eurostar is too expensive and the number of destinations limited. The travel companies which specialise in train travel from the UK are too expensive for a family and really only for the well heeled with plenty of spare time to put up with the poor connections to most of Europe. Some real competition by other train operators might shake Eurostar from its unimaginative complacency.
The Standard Premier offering has slumped. Once there was a glass of champagne. More recently, the breakfast offering has seen the disappearance of a bottle of water and a Tropicana Orange. Staff are still lovely though.
Professor Dominic Regan
We go a lot on Eurostar to see family in Brussels, but went easyJet from Gatwick instead a few weeks back. It was the first, and last, time we will use easyJet for this route. Six hours on plane, arrived at 1.30am. We have used Eurostar dozens of times and never had a delay longer than 30 minutes. Also Brussels airport is not very close to the city centre. So, it's still Eurostar for me
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