Tried & Tested

Rail check: Eurostar Standard

3 Oct 2013 by GrahamSmith

BACKGROUND

Eurostar offers passengers a choice of three travel classes - Business Premier, Standard Premier and Standard. I travelled Standard, or economy, for this return journey from Paris Gare du Nord to London St Pancras International. (To read a review of the outward leg, click here).

There are up to 18 daily services between the two cities, with Friday securing 18 services and the other days 15 or 16 trips each.

DEPARTURE

I arrived at Gare du Nord with 45 minutes to spare before the train's scheduled departure time of 1508.

After climbing the stairs to access Eurostar's departure lounge, I showed my ticket to a staff member and then my passport to a French official. I was then required to show my passport again, this time at a UK customs desk, before placing my luggage through a security scanner.

There is no need to check-in bags, and Eurostar's baggage policy is generous - each passenger can bring two pieces of luggage up to 85cm in length and an item of hand luggage.

On entering the lounge, I was struck by how hot and crowded it was - a far cry from the relaxed, and cool, lounge at St Pancras.

After queuing to use the (tiny) men's toilet, it was time to board. My seat was in Coach 3, so it took four or five minutes to reach as it was located near the front of the long train. Obviously, this would prove an advantage when disembarking at St Pancras, being that much nearer to the exit there.

THE SEAT

I was assigned seat 74 in Coach 3, which is laid out in a 2-2 formation with one quad of four seats on each side in the middle. The pairs of seats in the front of the carriage faced backwards, while those at the back faced forwards.

My seat was next to the window and faced back. Fortunately, there was nobody sitting in seat 75 next to me, so I had two seats to myself. This was just as well as sitting in one seat for the whole journey would have been uncomfortable for a tall person like myself given the limited leg-room.

Having said that, the seat itself was comfortable, with a retractable armrest on either side. Above the window, there are small reading lamps that can be individually angled onto the corresponding seat. There is also a blind to block sunlight, which I pulled down shortly after leaving Paris.

For those wanting some peace, coaches eight and 11 are designated quiet zones. And for those needing a plug, UK and EU sockets are in coaches five and 14.

THE JOURNEY

I was in my seat at 1455, 13 minutes before departure. The train started moving at 1507, a few seconds ahead of the scheduled 1508 time.

Throughout the journey, bilingual announcements were made. Shortly after we pulled out of Gare du Nord, a steward informed us that the buffet cars were coaches six and 13. I didn't buy anything from either, but the food looked decent, unsurprising considering Eurostar's bar buffet comes courtesy of Waitrose.

The train entered the Channel Tunnel at 1633, emerging into Kent at 1605 (the clock now having returned to BST) and stopping at Ashford International for a couple of minutes at 1607.

ARRIVAL

We pulled into St Pancras on time at 1639. This time I was at the "right" end of the long train, ensuring a short walk to the front of the station.

VERDICT

Another hassle-free journey without delays. The carriage interior is comfortable and serviceable, although the brown/grey decor is starting to look in need of refurbishing.

PRICE

Online prices for a midweek return in standard class during mid-October start at £69.


Graham Smith

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