Published on Friday, May 5, 2017

Avoiding the crush of the short-haul flight


Eurostar first introduced its sleeker, bullet-shaped new trains on services between London St Pancras and Paris 18 months ago. As the train operator prepares to roll out the e320 to new routes, TravelMole Linsey McNeill put its features to the test on a trip to Paris.

For many travellers, one of the biggest selling points for Eurostar's high-speed services between London and continental Europe has to be the ease at which you can work throughout the entire journey. This is even easier on the e320 as power sockets are fitted to every seat so you can charge your laptops and phones and there's free wi-fi throughout the train.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to connect to the wi-fi, but I think this must have been due to my own (dated) technology rather than a problem with the service itself as my travelling companions had no problems getting online. They found the service to be slow, but not frustratingly so.

For passengers who'd rather relax than work, the onboard wi-fi gives access to more than 300 hours of the latest TV shows and movies such as Sherlock and The King's Speech. There are also a kids' channel to stop little ones getting fidgety.

If you're celebrating a special occasion or just want to surprise your travelling companions, you can pre-book gifts such as champagne, chocolates or cake to be delivered to the seat, which is a nice touch.

The new ergonomically-designed seats are noticeably thinner than on the older trains, but I agree that by slimming down the seats Eurostar has achieved its aim of creating the impression of more personal space. Certainly you don't get that squashed-like-sardines sensation that you get in aircraft economy cabins. In fact, I was barely aware of the stranger sitting next to me and I had way more legroom than you'd get on a short-haul flight. To be honest, I was so comfortable I slept for much of the journey.

If you're one of those people who judge an establishment by its washrooms (some do, I'm told), I'm pleased to report that those on the e320 are the best of any train I've been on. Clean, very spacious and installed with no-touch taps and dryers.

I picked up lunch at the station on my way to the train, but for passengers who don't have time, sandwiches and hot dishes are available at the onboard Cafe Metropole. It also sells tickets for the Paris Metro and London Oyster cards, so you can avoid queuing at machines when you arrive. You can also buy tickets to attractions, guided city tours and city passes.

One of the things my friends commented on was the lack of 'frequent annoying announcements'. Instead, important information is displayed on overhead screens, making for a much more relaxing journey.

Tickets from London to Paris start at £29 one way.

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