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Simon Calder

Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: What about direct trains from London to the South of France?

Every day our travel guru answers your travel questions

Q Can you clarify the details of the new direct trains from London to the South of France? I assume with all these trains that you still need to make the trek across Paris from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon on the RER?

Brad Allemand

A The most exciting development from Eurostar for 2013 has just gone on sale: an experimental high-speed rail service from London St Pancras direct to Lyon, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence, winding up just five miles short of the Mediterranean. And when I say “direct”, I mean it: the rolling stock is a standard Eurostar train that bypasses Paris on the chord of track running east of the capital from Charles de Gaulle, to join the main Sud-Est high-speed line and run south at a steady 186mph. You reach Lyon in under five hours from London; Avignon in under six; and Aix just over six.

All good so far - but there are plenty of downsides. Only nine departures will take place during the whole year: at 7.17am on the Saturdays from 4 May to 29 June. The stations served are not all ideal: while it calls at Lyon's Gare Part Dieu, on the eastern side of the city centre, it then serves Avignon TGV (a couple of miles from the heart of the city) and Aix TGV (a 20-minute bus ride away).

Then there's the inbound trip, which involves a mandatory 80-minute stop at Lille-Europe for the UK Border Agency checks and security search. But if you relish the beautiful south, this could be the way to go. Read my column - bit.ly/AixPains - for more.

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