Open jaw: Where readers write back


Impossible journey

You insist that 33 minutes is a comfortable time in which to cross from the Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon in Paris ("Marseilles – the 360 city", 10 November). I guess you travel with just a small back pack, an iPod and that folding bike. Then you might make it. But if you are a family with two fractious children and a lot of luggage, or have limited mobility, it is utterly impossible.

We supply Metro tickets in advance for customers to help them get a head start, but, if they are in the back coach of the 18-vehicle Eurostar, it will take a good 10 minutes to reach the Nord concourse, then, assuming the children are not playing up and all the escalators are working, five minutes to gain RER platform level, five minutes to wait for a train, then agreed your eight minutes journey time to the Gare de Lyon, five minutes at least to reach the Lyon concourse, five minutes to ascertain where your train is from the electronic board and anything up to 20 minutes to join your train depending which platform it is given, composting the ticket and finding the coach.

A taxi across between the two stations is often worse as it can take 20 minutes' queuing to actually get in one, and then the same time again to cross the city. This is why Trainseurope does not sell this connection with under one hour available, unless specifically requested to do so by the customer, and then only with a disclaimer saying we will take no responsibility for a missed train.

David Gunning, Trainseurope

UK connections

My friend (resident in Leicester) and I (resident in West Yorkshire) are planning to go to Paris on Eurostar. We would like to set off separately and meet up in the champagne bar and then travel together to Paris. I have spoken to the travel office on Leeds station who say that they are not able to book the whole journey and advise me to buy my Eurostar ticket and then take it into their office and they will book me an appropriate return Leeds to Kings Cross. Surely, someone must be able to plan some joined-up thinking on this one.

Lindsay Mayor, Ashford Cutbacks

I understand that a potential passenger asked Eurostar how to get to Ebbsfleet from Ashford and was told by customer services "take a train from Ashford to Dover and then a National Express bus to Ebbsfleet". Not very quick or eco-friendly.

Also, there is no stop planned at St Pancras for the Cross-Rail project. This seems like a serious lack of joined-up transport planning. One way to maintain Heathrow's international role would be to have quick links to mainland Europe by rail for both incoming and outgoing passengers and that requires a fast interchange at St Pancras.

Humphrey Hudson

International Fares

The cheapest fare from London to Paris on the new Eurostar service is advertised at £59. I am paying $154 (£77) to travel from New York to San Francisco, a distance of approximately 3,500 miles. The next leg is San Francisco to LA, 400 miles at a cost of $58 (£29). These trips are advertised as among the greatest rail journeys in the world, and also the cheapest. There seems to be little coverage of the great American train journeys, which are bookable at www.amtrak.com

Douglas Yexley

Slow bag drop

I was interested in your "warning of the week" about check-in-creep. I think another candidate would be BA's wholly mis-named "fast bag drop". We checked in online for a 9.30am flight to Madrid on 18 October and arrived at the Heathrow terminal slightly after 8am when the buses at our executive parking failed to pick up from our stop. So it was later than we expected but by about 8.25am we were going nowhere in the "fast bag drop" queue and appealed to a supervisor to be bumped out of the queue.

She helpfully sorted us out but then berated us severely for not being at the airport two hours ahead of the flight.

Funny, we thought that online check-in and fast bag drop were supposed to let you arrive later at the airport but we are obviously mistaken. None of the BA staff we talked to were able to come up with a very good explanation of the advantage of web or machine check-in and then bag drop over conventional check-in.

There was a suggestion that by not checking in online we were likely to have ended up without seats together on our leisure flight i.e. you have to use the online service to not end up with a worse service than you used to get. And we can't work out why bag drop takes such a long time.

Dr Pamela Farries

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