Travelling to Bordeaux by train in under five hours from London could become a reality in the not-too-distant future.
Railway Gazette reports that railway officials met recently in Bordeaux to consider how this could be achieved. Eurostar did not attend.
One of attendees was from Getlink (the former Eurotunnel) which wants to encourage more rail business for the Tunnel. To this end it wants a competitor to the incumbent Eurostar.
Others were HS1, SNCF Reseau and Lisea (who are responsible for London-Bordeaux tracks).
A Bordeaux-London rail link would be open to any company, not just Eurostar.
ALLRAIL, an alliance of new rail entrants, said, “We hope that a new operator will be able to offer the service as well. But we are finding it is not so easy for them.”
What ALLRAIL means, and what we have said many times before in Business Traveller, is that only special and expensive trainsets are allowed to operate through the Tunnel (as Germany’s DB found to its cost). And the latter are all owned and operated by Eurostar.
The officials discussed having a new terminal at Bordeaux Saint Jean (the city’s main station) for the London-bound trains.
This is essential to avoid passengers having to detrain at Lille for immigration and security checks. UK Border and the Channel Tunnel authority insist that all passengers are pre-cleared before the train enters the Tunnel. (Pre-clearance is already carried out at Eurostar stations in the UK).
It’s reckoned there are now over one million air passengers a year between London and Bordeaux. A direct train which would bypass Paris is expected to capture 20 per cent of this market.
Travel between the two cities has grown in recent years. An estimated one in four UK expats now reside in the Bordeaux region.
It is already possible to travel London-Bordeaux by rail using Eurostar and SNCF’s TGVs.
But travellers must either change in Lille or Paris. It’s a simpler (Europe-Flandres) change in Lille. More connections go via Paris but it’s an awkward Nord-Montparnasse transfer.
Eurostar has demonstrated the feasibility of a London-Amsterdam journey taking four hours. So London-Bordeaux in less than five should also appeal.