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Discussion in 'International Transport' started by Temple, 17 Jul 2014.
Wow that was quick. Must have been reading this thread!
They have actually been doing the work since March last year, and it has long been recognised that the old facilities were inadequate.
The article says that Eurostar services account for 20% of the annual traffic at Lille Europe, and it is much more convenient to change there than having to schlep across Paris to the Gare Du Lyon.
Last year, a direct service from Lille to Amsterdam was introduced, and there is also a direct service to Geneva.
There are also direct TGV services to numerous destinations in France, as well as those from the Gare Lille Flandres, 500 metres away.
Returned from using the Marseille service, out Saturday returned Monday.
Outbound the journey is easy, clearly standard class is popular with families heading for Avignon, relatively few passengers from my carriage going to either Lyon or Marseille.
Boredom is the main challenge, previously when I'd travelled on the Saturdays only service as far as Lyon children were handed an activity pack, that appears to have been dropped. Back then only half the train was used (one half in each direction).
The return journey was less busy, Lyon became a more popular joining point and the passengers were mostly adults. Certainly not as busy as the outward and definitely far from full.
Bearing in mind this was after the redevelopment of the Departure lounge I had hoped that the process would be smooth. Sadly there are insufficient security scanners, both French and British border controls were having to wait for the security scanners to process passengers to then be able to examine the next passport.
Eurostar staff were not to be seen save for the usual check in staff who simply help passengers to scan bar codes.
There appear to be two options, run to be first to the check in desks or let the queue go down then join, the latter seems the better option. The queue extends from the bar to the check in desks, so effectively 3/4 of a Eurostar.
It is true the lounge is marginally larger than before but the entertainment area was only half working, (already broken in the space of a week?), there are now more toilets these must be very popular before boarding begins but if you are in the last 10% of passengers there is no queue. Boarding had begun well before we made it through check-in so it was peaceful in the lounge.
The news agent in the lounge was closed, possibly because it was a public holiday in France, the Relay newsagent and toilets before check in were also closed.
The train left about 7-10 minutes late entirely down to the inability to process the number of passengers in the allotted time.
Heading South at Lyon the train is joined by security staff dressed in t-shirts these prevent any locals joining and similarly perform the duty at the stations on the way North, in between stations they use the fold down seats in the vestibules.
Heading North the toilets variously had run out of soap or water so the cleaning effort seems to extend only to a rubbish gathering exercise.
On balance therefore I would recommend anyone considering it to go with the direct service to Marseille but return on a TGV to Lille for a regular Eurostar service back to the UK.
Having gone Leeds-London-Paris-Avignon and then Marseille-Paris-London-Leeds two years ago, I'd definitely split the journey the same way if I were doing it again. Changing from Eurostar to a TGV at Lille seems to put about £100 on the price of a ticket- I guess there's just more capacity out of the Gare de Lyon in the late afternoon-early evening.
Following Eurostar's Twitter feed last week, it looks as if one day the direct train was diverted via Saint-Exupery "for technical reasons" and passengers were directed to a following direct TGV for Lille; it says everything you need to know about the customs and immigration arrangements that there was sufficient time for passengers to take their seats on the original Eurostar they should have been able to catch at Lyon. The thing to remember about the asylum issue is that anybody arriving in the UK directly from France or Belgium should be a straight rejection as they've boarded in a country which is considered safe for asylum purposes and should have claimed there. Unfortunately it's not that simple- you need to detain them, take their details (so they don't try to come in a week later on a stolen French identity card), establish where they're actually from (not that easy if they don't have any identity documents on them- and a legitimate refugee may have good reasons for disposing of their papers if they were liable to make them more vulnerable to maltreatment in their own country) and then legally deport them.
An elderly auntie has joined the debate...
You can now board a train in London and a few hours later get off by the Mediterranean - the new direct service between St Pancras and Marseille is the furthest passengers have ever been able to go on a train from Britain without getting off. But why, more than 20 years after the Channel Tunnel opened, have direct services to the rest of Europe been so slow arriving?
Realising you've missed any train is unwelcome but missing the 15:22 from Marseille Saint-Charles to London Saint Pancras would be bad news indeed. The next departure would be at least 24 hours away.
Before breakfast-time five days a week a Eurostar train sets off from London and arrives six and a half hours later in Marseille. Less than an hour after that it pulls out again, heading back from Provence to St Pancras. At 1,237 kilometres (769 miles) it's the longest rail journey you can make from London to mainland Europe without a change.
It's only one service a day but Mary Walsh of Eurostar says for the company it's a big moment. "Probably we've all forgotten how amazing it seemed in the 1990s getting a train from Waterloo to Paris. If there weren't so many Brits in love with the South of France it could never work commercially."
In fact, a few days ago, getting the train to the UK, only a few passengers boarded at Marseille. But the Eurostar filled up nicely at Avignon and Lyon where it stops as it heads north.
Eurostar has had summer-only services to Avignon before and there's a winter service to Bourg Saint-Maurice in the French Alps for skiers. But the new year-round service to Marseille finally delivers one of the big direct destinations which in the 1990s were talked of but which have been slow to arrive.
Mark Smith runs the website seat61.com, loved by rail obsessives everywhere. He says there are three big factors which mean rail travel through the Channel Tunnel for most people still means only going to Paris or Brussels.
"In a way the most straightforward problem to explain is the technology. You can't run any old train through the tunnel - currently only the Eurostar trains themselves comply with safety regulations.
"In addition you need to have all the signalling systems on board for every country you pass through - and no two major countries use exactly the same system. Eurostars are already crammed with the equipment for the UK, for France and for Belgium and there's physically no room for anything else. But now Eurostar is buying new trains, which will have the ability to go as far as Amsterdam as they're compatible with Dutch signalling and safety.
"The original Eurostar trains are now pretty old. At the moment they don't even have passenger wifi, which is a problem in itself," says Smith.
Amsterdam has long seemed the obvious next destination for direct trains from the UK. Eurostar says those services will finally arrive in 2017, with stops at Antwerp and Rotterdam.
"Eurostar is a commercial company and if we add to our network we have to be sure we can make it pay," says Walsh. "We think Amsterdam will work brilliantly for us because it's both a big business destination and hugely popular with tourists. But the list of places which meet both those requirements is shorter than you think."
Walsh says one factor which may have changed since Eurostar began is how long passengers will sit on a train.
"After 9/11 air travel started to become far more time-consuming - for reasons of security which no one would ever criticise. People used to say no-one wanted to be on a train for more than three hours but I think four would now be more accurate.
"That's talking about business travel. If people are travelling for leisure - and if we can make their journey definitely part of the holiday - then probably six or seven hours is acceptable to the right destination."
Smith says identifying new destinations is a hard-nosed business. "Remember that the start of Eurostar pretty much coincided with the launch of budget airlines in Europe. That did for some of the more ambitious plans and competition with air is the second big consideration hindering expansion.
"As a rail enthusiast I would love to see trains to Berlin or Milan or even Moscow. But realistically that is many years away."
A complication is that Eurostar has lost its monopoly of passenger train services through the tunnel.
In 2013 Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) was granted an operating licence to run services in competition with Eurostar. Destinations from London might include Amsterdam, Cologne and Frankfurt.
But these services appear to be on hold. A spokesman for Deutsche Bahn blames the delay on the delivery of rolling stock but also says "the economic efficiency of the service has to be ensured".
Deutsche Bahn is known to be worried about what Smith gives as the third big problem complicating expansion of services through the tunnel.
"There's an obvious difficulty caused by Britain not being part of the EU Schengen treaty and retaining passport controls," he says. "It creates a massive headache for trains back to the UK which of course doesn't apply outbound. There's now a workaround at Lille and we'll see what passengers make of it all."
It was clear when I travelled back from Marseille that many passengers hadn't realised they would be required to leave the train at the northern city of Lille for passport checks.
Only Lille, Paris and Brussels have "juxtaposed" border control facilities which process UK-bound passengers before they board for London. Passengers from the South of France - and presumably new destinations to come - will need to get off at Lille, go up to the customs hall and in effect start their journey again.
An extra 75 minutes is factored in for the process.
Even some of those who knew of the Lille stop were surprised to find they had to carry their luggage throughout. Numerous small children were noisily displeased.
Deutsche Bahn may wonder what high-paying business travellers from Cologne and Frankfurt will make of being forced from their nice comfortable ICE trains. Some in the industry have urged a shift to on-train passport checks but for now this appears unlikely.
At Eurostar, Walsh does not deny there is a problem.
"The current arrangement is not ideal and we recognise that. The delay is offset to an extent by being able to turn up in Marseille or wherever and just get on your train, so you save half an hour there.
"But ultimately it was a choice of introducing the new service or not. People want more direct destinations and if there are problems at Lille we will look at how to make the set-up work better. In a couple of years when we introduce services to and from Amsterdam we'll have learnt from the experience."
Smith says the success of new Amsterdam services could be crucial to the future of international rail travel from Britain.
"We're looking at a journey time of three hours 55 minutes - within what most people now find tolerable. If the new services do take a big part of the market from the airlines - and I think they will - the industry will look for other places to conquer.
"Sadly some very attractive destinations are in the wrong place. How wonderful if you could get from London to Barcelona in under four hours on a train. Unfortunately geography is in the way."
Good to see the BBC talking about this sort of thing.
I totally agree, from personal experience, that if you make the journey part of the holiday for leisure travellers then you can easily increase journey times. It's the fact you can sit and relax, sleep, eat, watch films without having to change trains and try and make connections that makes it so much more pleasant.
Once you're on the train, there's little to worry about from then on.
But something has to be done about passport controls. I can only think of the solution being checks done in London, and the operators some sort of checks of their own to try and filter out people that could cause them problems (financial penalties).
I do have to wonder how much the penalties would impact the likelihood of greater profits from increased patronage. I'm definitely put off by a 75 minute break in service, and having to carry my bags throughout.
I'd certainly be put off by a needless 75-minute delay and hoicking luggage around. But that's the price we pay for pandering to racist paranoia.
is it racist to want to keep illegal immigrants out of the UK benefit system, using up your and my hard earned tax revenue? If the migrants are genuine asylum seekers, they could claim asylum in the 1st safe country they reach, or France/Belgium/Germany/Netherlands rather than hop over to the UK simply to get better treatment. All of those countries are safe for asylum seekers, yet the UK is the chosen country of better benefits. It isn't racist, it's economics.
The financial risk is simply too big, as has been explained in several posts before.
Comments from angry passengers shuffling for an hour through Lille Intl staring to appear on social networks. Watch for hostile press coverage soon
This could work out well in the end. MPs getting letters demanding joining Schengen will perhaps start to roll in.
Meanwhile there is an article on the Marseilles srvice in the BBC News magazine.
Anyone elese hear an echo from a few posts down?
Nah, just you. Might want to get that checked out I think
You're seriously mistaken if you think joining the Schengen is even a remote possibility. It's going to be difficult enough persuading people to vote to remain in the EU nevermind persuade them to remove border controls with Europe.
So I think we should have a referendum on joining Schengen. But votes can only be cast at Baggage reclaim at an international airport in the UK.
Actually, getting out of e.g. Gatwick with a machine readable passport is such a doddle (we've made it from plane to train, with hand luggage cases in 12 minutes, despite the mile long trek through the corridors and slopes of South Terminal), that if the same facilities on the scale needed to avoid queueing were available at St Pancras, the issue would be academic for EU passport holders. In other words just a need to scan cases at entry stations such as Lyon on the platform entrance would do the job neatly. Those checks are in any case illogical, as J. Clarkson has recently pointed out. We don't check tube pax luggage do we, or those travelling through the Severn tunnel.
On the fines for carrying potential illegals, just make it the task of train staff to check pax passports like they do on the airlines.
As Mrs Merkel recently told our PM, where there is a will there is a way. I would imagine that Eurostar is working hard on the issue; I hope so.
I used the service over the may bank holiday a few weeks ago and found it quite good. Loved the staff wearing the straw hats. Service had a good summer leisure feel to it and hope it remains. Regarding the 'workaround' at Lille on the way back, I was sceptical myself at first but in reality I didn't find it that bad and it would not put me off using this service again. I have been to the South of France quite a few times and was on a late TGV back into Paris back in Sept thinking I was going to miss my Eurostar. At least with this solution you will not have the same panic as it's the same train.
In terms of sustainability, if the train is not getting a full load in both directions then they should be putting Lille Europe as a drop down / pick up stop to sell more seats. So the outbound could provide additional sales for London-Lille and also Lille to South of France. And this could also be done for the inbound service considering the train has to go through security clearance at Lille Europe. Hopefully then this could enable a 2nd service with a morning train from Marseille and an late afternoon service from London.
And hopefully once the LGV extension down to Bordeaux is done in 2017 it would be nice to see a eurostar service there using a similar format to the Marseille service.
Lille may be a bit of a pain - in the winter its quite a cold station. I used to use it to change onto the eurostar in the old days rather than the stressiness of trying to get across Paris. [duncanp - or montparnasse ] (I was usually travelling Angers - Waterloo and so could change in Lille from TGV to Eurostar).
Cost was super cheap then too - as under 26 and buying tickets on the subsidised French side...
The idea that benefits are better in the UK than elsewhere in Europe is simply wrong. I'm surprised this poster doesn't know that, given their name.
My statement is made in relation to asylum seekers, not benefits in general.
That is why there are so many trying to enter the UK from France They choose not to claim asylum in France, travel 40 north from Calais into Belgium, or the 85 miles to the Netherlands where they could also claim asylum. All much easier than hiding in a lorry, getting through the UKBA checks etc.
The actual level might be better elsewhere, but they are significantly easier to claim in the UK. Most of the rest of Europe is contributions based rather than needs based, so you need to reside there for a while first.
We tried the newly introduced direct service for a four day weekend to Marseille, travelling Standard Premier for the journey. Both outward and return trains on the Friday and Monday respectively were well loaded although relatively few passengers travelled beyond Avignon. The outward 6 hour 30 minute journey was a delight; a comfortable spacious seat and attractive countryside to view. Food and drink service were adequate, but below expectations with no real at seat service other than the main meal. It is worth selecting a seat on line when booking, we selected facing seats across a table which were fine, those in the side by side airline style seats looked cramped.
The return was not so good, not helped by our train leaving Marseille 1 hour 15 minutes late caused by delays to the incoming service, to be fair this had not been Eurostars fault. There is a first class lounge at Marseille although not publicised by Eurostar and we were allowed in to await the incoming train there is no catering and it is just a place to sit in relative peace and calm. Although warned that we would have to detrain at Lille to clear French and UK Border Control, the reality of over 500 passengers all detraining at the same time with luggage was not pleasant. Our strategy had been to visit the Irish pub while everyone else queued. However, it appears that all station facilities (except the toilets for which there is a charge of 0.70) close at 20.30 so by the time we detrained, all station facilities had closed (it was by now nearing 21.30) and at its worse, the queue for security was well over 100m long back to the Irish pub and not just single file. 75 minutes is timetabled for this so the scheduled return journey time is nearer 8 hours and the rationale for taking the return train is much weaker. Once through security you are decanted into a featureless lounge, the only facilities available are two vending machines.
We found this a thoroughly unpleasant end to what had been a very enjoyable long weekend break in Marseille and could not recommend the direct return train. All parties should sit down and work out what needs to be done to achieve pre or on train screening. Until then, either fly, or take the direct Marseille Lille TGV and then change onto one of the regular Paris/Brussels to London Eurostars, avoiding the crowds that come with the direct train.
On-train screening won't happen as you'll still need everyone to disembark from the train to have their luggage go through the x-ray machine, and pre-screening will never happen, has been mentioned elsewhere thet the UK Border Agency (or whatever they're currently called) won't do security and immigration checks at any additional places (plus where would they have the secure zone at Marseille?)
I recently spent a week in Marseille after traveling on Eurostar and I must say it was fantastic.
I would fully recommend the first class (Standard Premier) for sheer comfort and peace.
Seats were lovely and comfy, surroundings nice and the staff couldn't of been more helpful. I was wary of it being a 6.5 hour journey but in all honesty it was brilliant. Once you leave London we were served fresh croissants, tea and coffee, fresh bread rolls with butter, marmalade and jam and a lovely yoghurt with water and orange juice. This kept us going nicely, and after a little nap as we moved on towards central France we were served a delicious dinner. I had chicken with a stuffing centre, potatoes, mixed veg and gravy, followed by a beautiful fruit tart, beers and wine. More tea and coffee if desired. My wife had a vegetarian quiche with salad and a sponge cake which she said was fab.
On arrival in Marseille it was 32 degrees and the heat literally hits you like opening an oven door. Loved Marseille as a place. Obviously same as any city I the world, avoid the dodgy spots and stick to the beaten track and you shouldn't have any problems. The port area is beautiful and very vibrant. I would recommend the beach Du Prado about 15 mins from the port on a bus (every 10 mins and €1.50 each way) lovely quite beach, turquoise water it was fantastic.
Journey home was again great and although we had to de train at Lille for security before the tunnel it was no problem at all. After 4.5 odd hours on the train it was nice to stretch the legs. Once back on we were back in London an hour and a half later.
Fully recommended for peace, comfort and a lovely trip to the South of France.
We will 100% be going again next year with Eurostar.
And did the French speak english? We (some supporters of our local football club) need to play in Marseille against Olympique in the last week of November 2015. I know it has nothing to do with trains, but still ..... (want to know).
Generally some do, some don't. Either way, it's unlikely to cause you problems.
It never hurts to try speaking French even if you get answered in English.
We also used the new Marseilles service to get to/from Avignon over the summer. Luckily we travelled in the clear window between the ferry strike disruption and the migrant assaults on the tunnel, so didn't have any external problems.
The journey down in standard class was OK, and the "premium standard" (or whatever it's called) on the way back was very nice indeed, with a bit more space and plenty of food and wine to make the journey go quicker.
However, the whole Lille business would completely put me off doing that return journey again. We had a fair amount of luggage, and dragging it a long way around the station, and standing around for an hour plus was not much fun.
Compared to a low cost airline it was about 70% more expensive, took a lot longer and provided roughly the same amount of security hassle. Plus all the trouble at the tunnel this summer means that it's hardly a risk-free option either.
Without the Lille interruption, I'd probably consider it again despite all that, but otherwise I think we'll be on Easyjet again next year.
We travelled out on Sat 12th September and returned on the 19th. Having spent a rather luxurious night in the station hotel we arrived back to earth with a bump at 06.30 with the scrum that is the check in at St Pancras. This is not a new experience for me or my good lady so I knew what to expect - Grown British and French people acting like spoilt two year old's and security staff being rude, arrogant and a waste of everyone's time. As ever we were not disappointed.
The scrum was well underway with both a fully loaded Brussel service at 06.57 still checking in and the fully booked Marseille at 07.19. A weekday morning check in is still as busy, but generally less suitcases than a Saturday as there are more business travellers. A fully loaded Marseille sees far more bags and with that, less savvy punters. The queue was already stretching out across the main throughfare of the station and it didn't take a genius to work out that the NR station staff would soon be on high alert. I was not disappointed and soon the blue vests arrived shouting and screaming that we should not be queuing here and we should do a formation maneuver with our bags that would have got cheers from an appreciative American audience if we were a marching band. So, NR Major stations, this happens every week, every Saturday and doubtless many other times, if the blue vested staff were actually on site instead of watching it on CCTV and then reacting, would it not be better managed. IF the queue is really such an issue, MANAGE it better.
Anyway, we moved along at a steady pace and watched everyone pushing past the gates and wondering why they closed on them as they had not waited for people to move before they had to gain vital seconds in beating everyone else to the bag search. It's a bit like vying for position at traffic lights only funnier. Once through the gates the security theatre is open for your delectation. Rude obnoxious staff shouting that you should have laid your bag flat or that all bags should go in the trays or that you must empty pockets. None of this is actually explained in a pleasant way, just shouted, no please or thankyous. You pick up your bags at the other end and if you happen to be wearing a bra with metal fastenings or have metal fastenings to your trousers you will have to spread your arms and cause more hold up to the queue outside. Oh and if you dont put the plastic trays on the conveyor into the big box at the end then the conveyor stops working and you get shouted at for not knowing that you are doing the security staffs job for them and causing more delay to the good folk who are trying to save vital seconds at the gates (you know the trays that you didnt know your bags had to go in THATS ALL BAGS no please, thankyous, just shouting).
Still nearly there now, just the UK border agency staff smiling is not part of their work ethic, but still they are polite and a positively joyous to deal with after you have left the security theatre. As for the French immigration staff . . . Bonjour, shrug of a shoulder and they just continue chatting amongst themselves and presumably counting down the minutes to their Eurostar home and counting their expenses for an overnight stay in London. At least they smiled.
Well phew. We are in. As I said above this is all old hat for me and whilst I sound like a grumpy old git, I arrived un-phased, u-harmed and still with plenty of time before the train. Joking aside they really do need to sort this shambles out. The space outside the check in area is simply too small if the security checks are to continue (I dont expect they will go away). The staff and management have been doing this long enough now to know that something needs doing and yet not a single thing has been done to change the procedures for customers. If the staff and management who work within the terminal had to go through the shambles each time they entered instead of waving a badge, I suspect they might take an interest in making it a better experience.
Still there are plenty of seats once through and we only waited about 10 minutes for the scrummage onto the train started. It is not often that I travel on Eurostar with big bags and even more so, not often I travel on what will be a full train. Full it was. I had tried to upgrade to Standard Premier but had been shown the seating position by the lady at the ticket office the night before. Every bookable seat taken. Whilst I like to spread out and take an empty table etc, I am also very happy to see a train like this sold out! Anyway, I am normally last on as there is simply no point joining the scrum for seats, we all have one and we know which one it is! On this occasion with big bags and being close to the entrance we decided to go for it, not with such gusto as to get in anyone elses way (there were plenty up for that though!). We were in coach 16, so quite a hike, but we were one of the first in so got the big bags in the rack quickly before taking our seats with the little bags in the racks with no issue. Then it was time to sit back and watch people trying to squeeze huge cases in the overhead racks (unsuccessfully), sit in wrong seats, sit in wrong coaches and just generally try to do everything in a hurry despite the first stop not being until Lyon at lunch time.
Enough of people watching! Obviously still a standard Eurostar set (3211 and 3212) and dud for me as they only set I need for haulage is one set converted to SNCF domestic use. Sit back and enjoy then. I am still amazed at the start to pass Stratford timings, my wife was more interested in her Kindle than my excitement of letting the train take the strain instead of me driving!
The Train manager was already wishing us a great holiday in the South of France and the Ashford stop topped up the train with even more sun seekers. Two sets of two seats had covers over them and were being used as additional luggage racks and were needed. Clever idea.
And so to window watching, reading, listening to music, eating, drinking and spotting. We stop at Lille for a brief crew change and then off we go again with not much to see on the depot at Lille.
We now had a couple of cleaners pass through the train handing out small rubbish bags, it was only then I noticed the small metal bins were all missing by each set of seats. It is my guess that this is to speed up the security clearance on the return at Lille (??) or are they now missing from all sets? I wouldnt like the job of taking them all off and putting them back again. These staff did a good job all the way to Marseille picking up rubbish regularly and ensuring the well used toilets were kept spotless. A welcome sight and one I hope is not lost to cost cutting for such a long journey. We slowed to a halt at Marne la Vallee and sat there for about 15. I am guessing crewing or pathing? We never made up the delay.
We arrived into Lyon Part Dieu at about 13.10 and I was surprised how many people left here, but when you think how much of France is a change of trains away and it is understandable I guess. We spread out a bit! A good collection of loco and unit numbers were gathered here and at the depots South of the station and I settled back for some new track. My previous trips to Avignon by TGV were in the days that the High Speed line South of Lyon was not opened and the one time I should have done it we were diverted via the normal route.
We were joined at Marseille by some young staff who were wearing snazzy t-shirts and appeared to be on to assist with the turn round at Marseille. They had print outs of the seating allocations for the return journey. I stretched my legs a bit after Lyon, I had been sitting for some 6 hours now!
And so to Marseille where we arrived a little before 15.00 (Due 14.46). Not the hottest I have alighted from a train here, but still around 25c was ok! We arrived in the Eastern train shed and I grabbed a quick camera phone shot of the Eurostar on the stops.
There followed a very nice week in a hotel close to Bandol, about 45 minutes away by train. I was allowed a day out and enjoyed a couple of trips along the coast between Marseille and Miramas with class 67s
And so after a nice break it was time to come home. The security shambles that is St Pancras is obviously not repeated at Marseille. However the British like to queue across the concourse, despite having a booked seat we have to queue. Or not, in our case. The inward service was a little early and was in the Western shed. I noticed there was a TGV leaving at 15.05 in the adjacent platform so it was obvious we would not be boarding until that had gone so we sat and watched the lemmings queue. Departure is at 15.22 and as everyone started to board we set off and saw the young assistant waiting by coach 18. We were booked in coach 16, but I hoped there would be a spare table in coach 18 (1 & 18 are mostly tables) and indeed there were two spare bays in the family area four bays of four with half tables next to the baby changing area. Although this put us right at the back of the train for the Lille shuffle and the St Pancras arrival, the ability to spread out on such a long trip was welcome.
This time we had sets 3217 & 3218. Again no bins present and plastic bags were already on seats for rubbish. We set off on time and picked up a smattering of people in our coach at Avignon, but nobody at Lyon (in our coach). Having gained a tiny bit of new track (a spur off of the high speed line (a bit technical I know) coming into Lyon, the spotting opportunities for the trip were now mostly over as we left and hit the high speed line for the run to Lille. This was a pretty spirited run to say the least and we were into Lille almost 15 early.
And so to the Lille shuffle. Not a single announcement was made or any literature placed on the train to let people know what to expect. I sort of guessed we would get out, queue up and get back on. Thats what happened really, but a few people on the train had no idea that they had to do this. Put simply its a pain, but not the end of the world. The people toward the from coaches 1- 10 will always be first in the queue as the escalators up are all at that end of the building. We were in a queue for about 30 minutes. The usual diet of people pushing in was on show as were the frayed tempers of those coming home from holidays. We were accompanied by three very well armed soldiers who patrolled the queue and also hung around the entrance to the check-in. We were through in about 35 minutes from joining the queue to going back down the escalator in about 45. By the time we were back on there was still about 15 before we were due to leave and we did not hurry at all. It was noticeable that the Standard Premier was rammed full and the standard class was about 60% full. The man at seat 61 intimated that the Northbound train does not load fully as they would not be able to clear everyone form a full train in time allowed. That looked to be the case. Was it a pain getting off? Yes. Will it stop me doing it again? Absolutely not. Having been sat for five hours my legs needed stretch, but standing in a queue for 25 is not my
idea of fun.
Is there a way round this? I am no expert but I think if Eurostar are going to expand to Amsterdam and other locations something will have to be done. RENFE do baggage checks for all AVE trains within Spain and they used to do baggage checks at Avignon in the past and I guess the Bourge ski train gets these?
I have had untold number of on train checks by border staff over the years. They used to cover just about every train from Brussel in the 90s and early 2000s. Two would walk through and check bogs before starting each coach from either end. People were told if they wanted the buffet they needed a passport. This was before any Schengen controls were introduced, so it is entirely feasible - IF - people want it work. If trains are being deliberately under loaded then there is an easy win for extra bums on seats to pay for the extra costs involved.
It is interesting that I made this trip soon after the Thalys shootings and the refugee crises. Both of these combined will give the chattering classes enough ammunition to keep the checks going despite the fact my train could have been attacked anywhere before Lille as could any other train in France or the UK that is not going through the tunnel. Of course, you can still drive onto a Channel Tunnel train in your own car with only a very minimal chance of being checked before you get on. I am currently on three checks out of sixty plus car journeys.
.. Back on the train we all settled back into our seats again and set off bang on time, I suspect we could have left about 15 early as everyone was back on. Arrival back into St Pancras was 5 early and apart from the fact I was in coach 18 so it was a long hike there is not much more to say apart from one final whinge. The buffet car ends up adjacent to a set of up escalators and the trolleys are already waiting to do the destocking which blocks over 75 of the platform space. So causes a bottleneck of case pullers with its ensuing arrogance of people who will not wait for anyone else.
I am confused? Did you sleep through lunch or does the time difference make it impracticable to serve?
Funnily enough I'm just after finishing watching yon Portillo chappie arrive at Marseilles St. Charles on the Beeb.
Glad you enjoyed the trip.