The Eurostar is great. You can get on a train in London, then travel under the sea to mainland Europe, either to France, Beligum, or the Netherlands, and in pretty quick time too. In fact the journey from London to Paris is only eight minutes longer than a Virgin train from Euston to Manchester Piccadilly. The problem is that it's pretty pricey, as I found out recently, even if you have regular tickets. So someone's proposed a budget version, and made the poor decision to liken the way it'll operate to budget airlines.
This idea comes from GetLink, the company that runs the Eurotunnel, who have proposed a new route that will run from Stratford all the way down to Roissy station, near Paris's Charles de Gaulle Airport. The route would be slower than the standard Eurostar, but would also be cheaper as a result - something GetLink hopes would help it better compete with budget airlines.
GetLink chairman Jacques Gounon told The Telegraph:
“Rail transport is about to be transformed in the same way as air travel was between 2003 and 2005, with the appearance of budget airlines in Europe. The rail market is ready for budget and premium services to coexist.”
I'm not sure how I feel about this. The British rail system has a budget experience with premium prices, but I suppose I can handle crap service if I'm paying crap prices.
Still the idea here seems rather sound. In the same way budget airlines use secondary airports as their home bases, the new line would rely on smaller train lines that are slower, but also have lower toll charges. Roland Berger, a consultancy firm commissioned by GetLink, estimates that the ticket price would be 25-30 per cent lower than the traditional Eurostar, while Getlink claims the journey to Paris would take around three hours - not a huge amount more than the 2h20m it takes to get from St Pancras to Gard du Nord.
As for the tunnel, GetLink says it's currently only at 58 per cent capacity, which means there's plenty of room for more trains. So we won't have to build some new ones or, worse, build Boris's dumb bridge. Unfortunately such a proposal would take time, and Gounon claims that it would take 18 months for a new rail company to set up a service between London and Paris. They'd also need trains capable of operating on both English and French tracks. Though he admits Eurostar could probably get everything in place in a third of the time, GetLink may send out invitations to other operators. [The Telegraph]