All you need to know about ski holidays by train

Eurostar cancels some London-Lyon dates, but…

Wed 21 October, 2015

By

By: 
Daniel Elkan

Eurostar has cancelled trains five dates new 2015-16 winter London-Lyon route.  This is a blow for skiers who have booked onto the train, and for those who were planning to do so.

It’s also an odd move from Eurostar. The company blames ‘lack of demand’ for services on those dates  - all off which are off-peak dates in January late February and early March – despite peak dates selling well.

Is Eurostar’s move premature and short-sighted?  You could well argue so. Here’s why:  

  1. The Lyon route was good for a range of ski resorts because it meant that instead of changing station in Paris, you could just change in platform at Lyon (to connect with a local train to your ski resort. However, the onward Lyon-Alps journeys had only just gone on sale when Eurostar cancelled dates.  Many skiers would have been waiting for these onward journeys to come on sale, so that they could book the entire journey and be sure of their onward train tickets.
  1. This is a new service.  Every new product takes time to bed in – that’s normal and obvious.  You can’t expect a new service to suddenly sell like hot cakes on all dates - especially when it is one that people need to get familiar with (route, timetable, connection at Lyon).
  1. When it announced the launch of this winter route in mid-July, Eurostar provided almost no information about onward connections to ski resorts from Lyon.  More than that, Eurostar got the information badly wrong – mistakenly telling skiers that the train journeys from Lyon would require multiple changes or that they “could get a bus”.  They are correcting it now, with Snowcarbon’s help.
  1. Features in the travel media about the service (some of which I’d written), had come out only days beforehand.  A skier reads an article about a new travel option, talks to their friends, they discuss it further, looks into viability and booking etc.  These things take time.  Eurostar hasn’t allowed for this.
  1. Eurostar runs hundreds of trains every week.  Cancelling just one service per week must save them little money and it sends out a very negative message in terms of their own confidence in their product. 
  1. Having a new service, billed as a ski service, run some weeks, rather than every week, makes communication far more difficult – for everyone.  Because you have to know which dates are running.
  1. Tour operators.  When launching this service, Eurostar managed not to enable any tour operators to have an allocation, or access to an allocation of fixed price tickets on this service. This is in keeping with Eurostar’s apparent policy of not trying to help tour operators to sell its trains very easily.  Even though many ski tour operators would love to sell more packages with train travel included.  This is tragic shame, and the result is that many skiers end up flying or driving when they would have preferred to travel by train.  It is something that must be addressed - to the benefit of all.

The five cancelled dates

The five dates that the Eurostar direct service between Lyon and London is cancelled are:

  • Sat 16 January 2016
  • Sat 23 January 2016
  • Sat 30 January 2016
  • Sat 27 February 2016
  • Sat 05 March 2016

The good news - alternative inbound routes

There is an alternative to the Lyon - London Eurostar service, and this is to come back on the same route but take the TGV from Lyon to Lille Europe, and then switch onto the Eurostar.  In practical terms, the journeys are almost identical.  However, the timetables are different, so you can choose what suits you best.

Lyon to Lille Europe, then Lille Europe to London - Journey 1 (Saturdays)
Depart Arrive   Depart Arrive
Lyon Part Dieu Lille Europe Change platform, check in Lille Europe London St Pancras
14:00 16:57   17:36 18:06

 

Lyon to Lille Europe, then Lille Europe to London - Journey 2 (Saturday and Sundays)
Depart Arrive   Depart Arrive
Lyon Part Dieu Lille Europe Change platform, check in Lille Europe London St Pancras
17:00 19:56   20:30 21:03

This is almost identical to the inbound Lyon-London Eurostar journey anyway, because you actually have to get off the direct train to do passport and security before getting back on the train.

Another way to come back is with a TGV to Paris, and then a Eurostar to London.