The Overland AllianceFriday, 3 July 2009
St Pancras Railway Station and Eurostar
Earlier this week I went to a meeting of the Overland Alliance – it’s a proposed new organisation to promote travelling to Europe from the UK at surface level. Now that the high speed line from London to the Channel is open you can get from London to Paris on the Eurostar train in as little as 2 hours 15 minutes (hitting 300kph, 186mph along the way). London-Brussels is even closer, just 1 hour 51 minutes.
So why would anyone fly? And the answer is they don’t, far more people take the train to Paris than fly. None of that hassle in getting out to the airport, fighting your way through security, hanging around waiting for the flight to be called and then hanging around waiting for your bags to emerge on the carousel before schlepping them in to the city. And city centre to city centre Eurostar is way faster than the plane.
Further afield, however, and the airline advantage begins to kick in. Sometimes the train can still be compet- itively fast, but booking can be difficult, connections are not always easy and it’s simply not marketed very well. The Over- land Alliance hopes to change that. A sign of change is the launching of Railteam, a linkage of Eurostar (which operates the high speed services from London to the continent) with the national rail networks of France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
London also has a rebuilt St Pancras Railway Station as a new home to the UK end of Eurostar. After the Overland Alliance meeting I wandered over to have another look.
Meanwhile check the terrific Man in Seat 61 website for everything you might want to know about rail travel not only in Europe but much further afield. The Overland Alliance also aims to promote other forms of surface travel, it’s not just those glamorous high speed trains.