On Friday 27 July 2018, after several years of thinking about it, I finally travelled on Eurostar through the Channel Tunnel. I travelled on the 17:31 departure to Amsterdam but only as far as Brussels. I arrived in London Euston station on a Virgin West Coast departure from Chester and as it was a warm sunny day (st)rolled the short distance along the Euston Road to St Pancras. On arrival at St Pancras the signage for wheelchair access could have been a lot better, I had to ask some people for directions.
Check in at St Pancras was very disorganised, I was directed to the special assistance check in where there were many people sitting and standing around and only one lady on the desk. We all just waited until she came to us one by one to check us in and, if needed, arrange for someone to accompany us through security and passport controls. I had someone assist me but the next time I travel on Eurostar after check in I will make my own way through to the departure platform.
To board the train at St Pancras they bring this huge ramp/platform that folds out. You go first up a long ramp parallel to the train on to a platform and then turn through 90 degrees to a final short ramp in to the carriage. You can see the ramp in the photograph to the left, on both times I used it was used the other way around, the short ramp the man was standing on was not used, the ramp that is not lowered was used instead. I am not sure if this is because there are two different types of Eurostar trains, the ones I travelled on have 16 coaches the others have 16 coaches and a power car each end.
The wheelchair seating on the Brussels, Rotterdam, Amsterdam service are in Standard Premier class. There are two wheelchair spaces which have a table and a seat for a companion sitting opposite. Each of the two wheelchair spaces are facing in the opposite direction and are in coach 14 heading to the continent and in coach 3 on the return trip; it’s the same coach just the numbering is re-ordered so that coach 1 is at the front in both directions.
In Standard Premier class you get an airline style meal, travelling out we had chicken with rice, a bread roll and a piece of cake with a sauce under it. You also get a bottle of water and they come round offering soft drinks, fruit juice, wine and tea or coffee. The tea or coffee service comes around several times during the journey. The Amsterdam bound journeys have no stops between London and Brussels and the trip takes only 1 hour 48 minutes.
On arrival in Brussels, despite there being an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair waiting to board for a journey to the Netherlands, there was no ramp to be seen. The onboard staff who were getting off here got on the telephone to see what was going on and waited around until the ramp arrived. This was just a simple straight ramp that anyone who has travelled by train in the UK will be familiar with, but on the Eurostar it was at a very steep angle!
On the return trip check in was much more organised, on entering the Eurostar concourse I was directed to the Business Class check in where I was the only person checking in. I was immediately accompanied through security and passport controls. I was told to wait at the front of the checked in people and someone came to assist me with a boarding ramp in plenty of time for departure. This was again with a steep ramp. On this journey we had two stops before arrival in London, the first was at Lille Europe in France and then in Ebbsfleet International. The meal service was similar to that on the outwards journey but was chicken with pasta and a different kind of cake.
Eurostar is a quick and easy way of getting to the continent from London and is very wheelchair friendly. I look forward to using it again sometime in the future.