Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Train Rides - Paris to London by Eurostar

Travelling date: 18th April 2014

We take a return day trip to London from Paris. Rail Europe Asia has secured Eurostar tickets for our group on 9th January 2014, 3 months @ 120 days before departure day, tips we get from Seat 61 website. The ticket was couriered to us within days. Though it said we can get a good price of Euro39/trip/pax, the actual ticket price we paid online through Rail Europe was Euro49. In other words it cost us Euro 135 for a return trip. The travelling schedules were as follows:-
  • To London St-Pancras, departure time: 08:36 and scheduled arrival time: 10:00 via train no. TGT 9013
  • To Paris Gara de Nord, departure time: 20:01 and schedule arrival time: 23:24 with train no. TGT 9054.

Eurostar is a high-speed passenger train from London to Paris via the English Channel Tunnel, taking as little as 2 hours 15 minutes for the 495 km to Paris or 1 hour 55 minutes. The same train shall proceed to Brussels for another 373 km.  Eurostar trains travel up to 186 mph, leaving London St Pancras station almost every hour for the Gare du Nord and for Brussels Midi every 2-3 hours.  Eurostar trains are run by Eurostar International Limited, a company owned 55% by SNCF French Railways, 5% by SNCB Belgian Railways & 40% by London & Continental Railways (wholly owned by the UK government).  Eurostar carries only passengers, started their first running in 1994. 

The Gothic Railway station, London St Pancras

We took an RER line to reach Gara de Nord from our hotel and being well guided to reach an International train platform from Gara de Est by a beautiful French lady that conversant with me during that short ride. It was rather a long walks from Gara de Est to Gara de Nord from the underground route, so, it’s worth to be kind to locals as you will find no difficulties to reach the platform. There was already a long queue line for Immigration checkpoint by the time we arrived. After we have passed the immigration and security checkpoint, we were to wait at the waiting halls for the train to board. The gate was open about 15 minutes later. For information, only a brief 20 minutes of the Eurostar journey is actually spent in the Channel Tunnel, the rest is spent speeding through the countryside of Kent and northern France at up to 186 mph.  Some Eurostar trains stop to pick up passengers at Ebbsfleet International near the M25 & a handful stop at Ashford International in Kent.

On a special lane to catch a train to London at Paris Gara de Nord

Along the journey, the train manager shall makes announcement on departing and arrival, so you should worry less. Whilst, from London St. Pancras, all international passengers shall gather at the international departure halls which has almost everything, the café and the gifts shop for your last minute shopping. The train first heading north, makes a sharp right-hand turn past the huge steel gasometers behind Kings Cross/St Pancras and within few minute enters a covered bridge across the tracks leading out of adjacent Kings Cross station, which becomes a long tunnel under east London taking the Eurostar east and south.

Similar green pasture rural area visible from inside the train when passing France/England countryside 

The Eurostar passes Stratford International station, around 8 minutes after leaving St Pancras, the Eurostar train finally emerges from the tunnel and starts crossing the wastelands of east London, past warehouses and run-down housing estates.  An impressive Queen Elizabeth II suspension bridge on the right, which carries the M25 London orbital motorway across the River Thames at the Dartford Crossing can be seen shortly after, thereafter plunges back into a short tunnel for its own crossing underneath the Thames, emerging the other side in the county of Kent. The train is running at its full service speed of 300 km/h and crosses the most dramatic structure on the new high-speed line, the viaduct high over the River Medway.  To the right of the train as it crosses the viaduct, we shall see small boats moored on the muddy riverbanks far below.  To the left of the train, over the top of the adjacent M2 motorway bridge, we can see Rochester Cathedral and Rochester Castle in the distance. Take notice of the said scenery should you travel from London to Paris in a daylight. Take note also while crossing rural green and pleasant rural of Kent.

Just 35 minutes from St Pancras, the fields and hedgerows of east Kent give way to the roadways and check-in lanes of the Folkestone Eurotunnel terminal.  This is where cars and lorries are put on the Eurotunnel car-carrying shuttle trains to go through the tunnel to France, train passes through the middle of the terminal non-stop.  Passing through the Channel Tunnel takes just 20 minutes, and is something of an anti-climax.  The Channel Tunnel is just like any other rail tunnel, only a bit longer.  As a precaution, the yellow fire safety doors between each pair of coaches are closed during the tunnel transit.

The Eurostar emerges into France at up to 160 kmph, where distinctive clock tower of Calais town hall is visible from distance.  The Eurostar may call at Lille or simply pass through on the centre tracks.  The line to Brussels and the line to Paris diverge just after Lille Europe station.  The high-speed line to Paris ends just short of Paris Gare du Nord, and the Eurostar passes seamlessly onto a short stretch of conventional line to complete its journey into Paris Gare du Nord, the historic terminus where the traditional boat trains from Calais or Boulogne used to arrive.  The Gare du Nord is also the station for trains to Brussels, Amsterdam, and Cologne in Germany, and you will see red and silver Thalys trains arriving and departing from these places. When we arrived in Paris Gare de Nord, we walk forward straight off the end of the platform onto the main station concourse to catch a train to the hotel.

It was our last night in Paris after spending 4 days 3 night stay in a beautiful city of lights.

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