Sometimes small things can make a big difference.
More than two years ago, some friends and I were on a TGV train, pulling out of Bourg St Maurice station, headed for Paris. Out of the window we looked across to the Eurostar Ski Train platform.
This Eurostar Ski Train is separated from the French train platforms by a white fence. It’s not because the trains don’t get on with each other and had some kind of Thomas-the-Tank engine altercation.
It’s because when you travel back to the UK on the Eurostar Ski Train, you need to be funnelled through Passport Control first.
However, when you arrive from the UK on the Eurostar Ski Train, you don’t need to go through Passport Control because you already did that at St Pancras or Ashford. But you still have to exit at the front of the station, because of the fence.
And that’s fine. Except if you are travelling to the resort of Les Arcs, and want to access the funicular, it’s easier to access it by the walkway at the back of the platforms. Skiers arriving at Bourg St Maurice by TGV from Paris, or local TER trains from Chambery or Lyon, do this.
But skiers arriving by Eurostar Ski Train, can’t. Because of the fence. So they have to walk around, adding an extra 15 minutes’ walk to their journey to Les Arcs.
Except two years ago, we spotted that the fence had gates. The gates were locked. And an idea came to me (this sometimes happens). Admittedly, a very obvious idea.
What if, when skiers arrive on the Eurostar Ski Train.
1. Bourg St Maurice station staff unlock the gate to let skiers access the walkway to the funicular.
2. Ten minutes later, when skiers all the disembarking skiers who wanted to use the gate had used the gate, the station staff would lock the gate.
3. Erm, that’s it.
A genius plan, you might say, worthy of Blackadder’s Baldrick! Stop it, you are making me blush.
Anyway, I contacted Eurostar with this idea, because I thought that perhaps staff at head office might not realise that there is a gate that could be opened.
About 28,000 skiers arrive by Eurostar Ski Train over the course of a winter.
28,000 x 15 minutes saved per skier, is a total of 7,000 hours. That’s 7,000 hours that Eurostar could collectively save its customers.
After I contacted them, Eurostar told me that for the rest of the 2018-19 season, station staff would open the gate. However, no one had an photos or confirmed that this happened. Then when I asked Eurostar whether it would happen for the 2019-20 season, Eurostar said that it is French customs who control the gate. So it seemed unsure, and something that I never publicised because I wasn't confident that it was happening.
I’m following this up, and hope that for the 2020-21 season we can get confirmation that it will open.
If you have any experience of this from your own travels on the Ski Train to Bourg St Maurice, do let us know.