Tried & Tested

Rail check: Eurostar Standard Premier

22 Oct 2013 by Jenny Southan

BACKGROUND Eurostar operates up to 18 daily services (16 on weekdays) from London St Pancras International to Paris Gare du Nord, with return fares from £69 and a fastest journey time of two hours, 16 minutes.

DEPARTURE Passengers are required to check in 30 minutes before departure. My Eurostar train to Paris was leaving at 0731 so I arrived with a little extra time to spare at St Pancras International station at 0640.

Eurostar's baggage policy allows for two pieces per person up to 85cm in length plus a small item of hand luggage. There is no need to check-in bags, and as long as you can carry your own case, there is no weight limit. If you have extra baggage, bikes or oversized or heavy items, passengers must use Eurostar Despatch, meaning luggage is put in a secure, dedicated area on the train on your behalf for a fee.  

After buying a coffee I went straight to the automatic check-in lanes where I inserted my ticket to open a gate and then joined a queue for one of the security channels directly ahead. There was only a five-minute wait – jackets off but no need to take out laptops or liquids. Staff also gave me a tray holder for my coffee, which also went through the X-ray machine. Once on the other side, I went through passport control – there were three staffed booths and only a couple of people ahead of me.

Although the departure area was busy, there was plenty of seating and, at 0707, there was an announcement that my train was ready for boarding from platform ten. Standard Premier passengers only have access to the business class lounge with a Carte Blanche card or if they are the guest of a cardholder.

Passengers travelling in coaches one to five were directed by signs to access the platform one way, while those in coaches six to 18 had to go the other. After travelling up one of the angled moving ramps, I was on the platform by 0713, making my way down to coach 11. A member of Eurostar staff checked my ticket and informed me that there was also space at the other end of the carriage for suitcases.

THE SEAT Standard Premier is arranged in a 1-2 configuration, which is good for solo passengers as it means there is the option to sit alone (for instance in seats 65, 61, 51, 45, 41, plus 35 and 31, which faced each other). There were also pairs of seats – some facing forwards, others backwards, while others were arranged as a foursome around a shared central table.

I was sitting in backwards-facing window seat 54, though the view out was partially obscured by the wall. Seat 48 in front had a clear view out. The seat-back had a pocket at chest height for the Eurostar Metropolitan magazine (and any small personal belongings or bottles of water), while a large metal tray table slid up and out. This proved very stable for working on.

There was shared in-seat power, though the socket was European where I was sitting (it alternates between rows), plus a small bin beneath the window, pale grey upholstery, winged headrests with padded burgundy leather, and a button in the armrest to slide the seat forward and recline it at the same time for those who want to sleep. It was very wide and had lots of legroom, was quiet and comfortable.

Above the seats were two luggage racks – a broader shelf at the top for small suitcases and a ledge below for jackets. There were also reading lights, curtains and a coat hook. Washrooms were clean but smelt a bit and there were magazine racks in the vestibules with copies of Wired, Shortlist, Stylist, Wallpaper, FT Weekend and other papers.

THE JOURNEY At 0725 there was a bilingual announcement that coaches eight and 11 were “quiet” coaches and that this was a nonstop service to Paris. Coaches six and 13 were where the “Bar Buffets” were located, serving Waitrose products and staffed by “Maurice and Yanique, who would be “welcoming you”. We were also told that Mustafa and Dennis were our train managers.

The train departed on time, zipping its way to the south coast. At 0740, the breakfast service began for Standard Premier passengers. Trays with a croissant, a fresh seeded bread roll, butter, a miniature jar of morello cherry jam and a Yeo Valley strawberry yoghurt were handed out, plus a choice of apple juice, orange juice, water, coffee and tea.

The train entered the Channel Tunnel at about 0810, and trays were collected at around the same time. The train exited the tunnel on the French side at 0825. 

ARRIVAL We arrived at Paris Gare du Nord on schedule at 1047 local time (0947 UK time). Disembarkation took a few minutes as there were quite a few people retrieving suitcases. I then took a taxi (there is a rank to the right-hand side of the station when exiting) to Gare du Lyon, where I was taking a connecting TGV to Marseilles at 1237. (The journey takes about 20 minutes but there can be long queues for cabs.)

VERDICT An excellent Eurostar service connecting London with Paris in just a couple of hours. If you live near King's Cross, as I do, it is better then travelling to any of London's airports to then fly to the French capital. I was also catching a connecting train to Marseilles (click here to read review). The simple but tasty complimentary breakfast was welcome and the seats were spacious and comfortable. I also liked being in the quiet coach.

FACT FILE

JOURNEY TIME 0731-1047 (two hours, 16 minutes)

TRAIN TYPE Class 373/1

SEAT CONFIGURATION 1-2 in a mix of forward- and backward-facing seats, with some pairs and quads with a large shared table between.

SEAT WIDTH 66.5cm/26.1in (50.9cm/20in with armrest down)

SEAT PITCH 94.5cm/37.2in (solo or twin seats)

PRICE Internet rates for a midweek return Standard Premier ticket in December ranged between £189 and £311 depending on flexibility.

CONTACT eurostar.com; tel +44 (0)8432 186 186; raileurope.co.uk

Jenny Southan

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