Last week the news broke that Eurostar could cut train services and staff due to the ‘challenging environment’ following the UK’s EU referendum vote. I’m a huge fan of the Eurostar as an alternative to air travel, and couldn’t help thinking this could be a retrograde step for sustainable travel. So I decided to highlight my top five reasons to travel to Brussels by Eurostar…
When the news broke that Eurostar is likely to cut one in 12 services from London St Pancras to Paris and Brussels, with up to 80 jobs at risk, it struck me as a shame. The international train operator carries 80 per cent of passenger traffic between London and these two European capitals.
It has clearly been a tough year for both routes following the terror attacks in Paris in November 2015 and Brussels in March 2016, which undoubtedly dampened demand. In July, the high speed rail service reported a challenging second quarter. Business demand had softened in the run-up to the EU referendum and leisure traffic was impacted by the terrorist attacks. The outcome of the EU referendum in the UK, will hit the Brussels route hard in future.
I have travelled on the service a number of times, to Brussels, Calais, and Paris. Next week I’ll use it for my journey to Strasbourg. This has allowed me to travel outside the UK, despite a current self-imposed temporary flight ban to minimise my carbon footprint.
So here are my top five reasons to travel to Brussels by Eurostar:
Travelling by train is more sustainable than flying. Trains are more energy-efficient per passenger mile than planes, which means they use less fuel and release fewer emissions. It also makes fares less vulnerable to changes in fuel costs. According to independent research commissioned by Eurostar, passengers who fly between London, Paris and Brussels generate ten times more CO2 emissions than travellers who go by train.
Emissions from trains may also be less damaging to the environment because they are not released directly into the upper atmosphere.
The rapid growth in aviation, as flights became more affordable, has led to a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions associated with travel. This presents a major challenge to any claim from the tourism industry to be environmentally sustainable.
I personally find travelling to Brussels by Eurostar much more convenient and less stressful than travelling by plane. The schedules offer flexibility and convenience, with 10 trains per day between London and Brussels. Getting to London St Pancras is easy, as it is on the London Underground network. The same applies when you arrive in your destination city, as Eurostar stations are generally centrally located.
The check in process is much less hassle. You only have to arrive 30 minutes before your train’s departure times (compared to one hour in an airport). So far, I’ve found the check-in, security and customs process to be less stressful and time-consuming than when taking a flight.
You can also take more luggage with you, thanks to the more generous baggage allowances. Eurostar allows two bags (plus hand luggage) with no weight restrictions. Most flights limit you to one bag (plus hand luggage) and up to 20kg. There is no requirement to check your luggage in, which means no waiting at the carousel when you arrive and no chance of your luggage going missing. You can access your luggage throughout the journey.
3. Fast and reliable
Travel to Brussels by Eurostar is fast and reliable. The journey time from central London to the centre of Brussels is just two hours. I know the flight time alone is slightly quicker at around one hour and 15 minutes. But add to that the extra time it takes for check in, security, and baggage reclaim, plus transferring from the airport to the city centre, and Eurostar wins hands down.
According to Eurostar the total time taken for the journey, when all this is taken into account, is two hours 31 minutes by Eurostar and three hours 19 minutes by plane. The extra time you are required to spend in airports adds to your journey.
Punctuality is a priority on Eurostar, which results in a very reliable service. Figures from 2013 showed that 92.5% of trains between London and Brussels arrived within 15 minutes of their scheduled time. Contrast this with the reliability of flights, with 76.6% of British Airways flights, 85.1% of easyJet flights and 81.3% of Air France flights arriving within 15 minutes of their scheduled time.
4. Fewer hidden costs
Travelling by Eurostar is good value, with the lowest fares starting at around £29 each way for standard class. The price varies depending on which scheduled service you choose, but still it is easily comparable to a cheap flight and fairly affordable.
But perhaps more importantly there are fewer hidden costs. For example, you don’t have to pay a charge to choose your own seat, the generous baggage allowance means you don’t get stung for hold luggage charges or excess baggage, and there are no airport taxes to pay. Train fares also seem to me to be more stable than plane fares. This all leaves you with more money to spend when you reach your destination (on delicious Belgian chocolate for example!).
5. It’s more comfortable
One of the things I like most about travelling to Brussels by Eurostar is that it is more comfortable than flying, which means you arrive at your destination feeling less stressed and tired. For me, there is something more traditional and charming about travelling by train. Maybe even more stylish.
For starters you get more leg room, so you can stretch your legs out, sit back and relax. You can also watch the world go by through the window, rather than just looking out at the clouds.
You are free to move around the train, to visit the café car or toilet, at any time during the journey. This beats crossing your legs until the seat-belt sign is switched off! In many seats you can plug in your phone, laptop or tablet, ensuring you arrive fully charged. And there is no switching off during taxi, take-off and landing.
Things to do in Brussels
For ideas of things to do in Brussels, check out:
Eurostar is the high-speed train service linking St Pancras International, Ebbsfleet International, Ashford International, Paris, Brussels, Lille, Calais, Disneyland Resort Paris, Lyon, Avignon, Marseille and the French Alps. This is NOT a sponsored post and as always all views are my own.