Virgin Atlantic Links Up with Eurostar

It’s always good to see airplanes and trains coming together to make a more seamless travel experience. Now it appears that Virgin Atlantic has linked up with Eurostar to provide easy one-stop booking on Eurostar’s chunnel routes to Brussels and Paris. Unfortunately, the booking is the only thing that’s easy. This is far from seamless.

Those of you familiar with London have probably already spotted the problem here. Heathrow and Eurostar’s London-terminus at St Pancras are nowhere near each other. Were Eurostar to operate out of Heathrow, it would be an incredibly credible way to get to Brussels and Paris from anywhere in the world, but that’s not the case.

Once you land at Heathrow, you can hop on the Piccadilly line to Cockfosters (heh, heh) and about 45 minutes later you’ll be at King’s Cross. St Pancras is basically right next door, but you will need to walk. You could also take Heathrow Express to Paddington and then a cab or the tube to St Pancras, but that will add a transfer and only save you 10 to 15 minutes or so. Either way, you can imagine how little fun this would be if you have a bunch of bags with you.

So is this partnership really anything special? Well, yes and no. It’s not special for those looking to connect to a train, but if you have business in London and Brussels or Paris, it’s a nice step toward seamless booking. We have a long way to go before planes and trains are better connected, but I suppose you have to start somewhere. It’s not like they can just will the train stations to move closer to airports.


24 Responses to Virgin Atlantic Links Up with Eurostar

  1. Daren S says:

    Agree completely, it is such a shame that LHR has such poor rail connections to London and other parts of the UK. When you compare it to other major EU city airports it fails miserably. The proposed Crossrail project which will be completed in 2017 will improve things especially for The City, but will still fail to link LHR with St Pancras or Kings Cross directly which is a lost opportunity in my view.

  2. David SFeastbay says:

    “”””We have a long way to go before planes and trains are better connected…””””

    Well yes and no, it all depends where you are in the world. Europe has some really good train service right at the airport, it all depends how smart cities are.

    Any major city that has a good train/subway/underground transportation system is stupid if they don’t have that train/subway/underground going to/from the airport(s). Almost to the airport is not good enough (are you listening Los Angeles).

    I think cities forget how important their local airport is to an area.

  3. Christophe Bottega says:

    I guess France is lucky : both Paris (CDG) ans Lyon (LYS) have TGV (high speed trains) stations in the airport, effectively providing a good plane/train connection.
    Air France is even marketing flights to/from Brussels via CDG using those trains

  4. QuercyNomad says:

    The much promised Crossrail will actually link Heathrow with the Eurostar – just not at St Pancras. The route east goes to Stratford which is being developed for the 2012 Olympics into a major transportation hub including Eurostar services.

    We in the UK get used to waiting patiently for these big infrastructure developments to happen!

    Amsterdam, Paris (CDG) and Frankfurt lead the way in transport hub integration – almost every train in the Netherlands seems to go via Schipol!

    In Germany for many years now the train between Stuttgart and Frankfurt had a LH flight number alongside the train number and allowed seamless travel between plane and train (including checking bags through to the destination).

  5. Did the terminus in London change? I always thought Eurostar was at Waterloo, south of the Thames.

  6. Yup…I’m corrected. Waterloo was sooo last year! LOL

    Either way, seamless, nothing. Better to fly nonstop to BRU or CDG than deal with delays in to LHR, customs at LHR, Paddington and the Tube just to take an underwater highspeed train.

    Sorry, VS, you lose on this one.

  7. Bobber says:

    Speaking of optimism, 45 mins from LHR to Kings Cross. On the Piccadilly Line. THE Piccadilly Line that I know?

    Mmmm.

  8. Too right, Bobber….45 minutes MIGHT get you to Earl’s Court!

  9. Bobber says:

    @TTO

    I think you’re about spot on, mate.

    The Heathrow Express is an absolute rip-off (approx $50 for a return ticket) but it would (normally) only take you 15 mins to Paddington. ‘Theoretically’ (cough), you’re only 5 stops from KX/St Pancras, but that can easily take you 30 mins, due to trains terminating at Edgware Road. Can someone please send BART to the rescue?

    Overall, a weird link-up for Virgin.

  10. Alex C says:

    Christophe Bottega wrote:

    I guess France is lucky : both Paris (CDG) ans Lyon (LYS) have TGV (high speed trains) stations in the airport, effectively providing a good plane/train connection.

    Yeah, Frankfurt Airport is linked into DB’s network very nicely (a train station with good long-distance connections at the airport, and excellent local connections that can get you to Frankfurt HBf quickly). Zurich and Geneva airports both have good rail connections from the airport to the rest of the country as well.

    So really, the issue isn’t with rail and air networks being poorly connected in general (at least in Europe), but just with London. Still, maybe there are already enough people who take the train across anyway to get a better price or connection, and this consolidates the booking.

    It still seems weird, and CF you’re right on about just how inconvenient this really is.

  11. London’s been fighting for years just to get a 3rd runway, on the north side, if fawlty memory serves. The chance of them getting a German or French style national rail station built at Heathrow? Slim to none.

    How to improve? Make the Heathrow Express a multi-service terminus with nonstop trains to Paddington, Waterloo, Victoria, and KX/St. Pancras. That should cover most of the national services and Eurostar in to the bargain.

  12. CF says:

    David SFeastbay wrote:

    Almost to the airport is not good enough (are you listening Los Angeles).

    Amen. That was such a gigantic mistake, and now they’re planning on fixing it . . . someday. Of course, it’ll cost a ton more to do so.

    Christophe Bottega wrote:

    I guess France is lucky : both Paris (CDG) ans Lyon (LYS) have TGV (high speed trains) stations in the airport, effectively providing a good plane/train connection.

    I know the TGV is right at CDG, but somehow it seemed to take me a long walk and a shuttle ride to get there (flew in on Air Canada). Still, very easy once we got there.

    QuercyNomad wrote:

    The much promised Crossrail will actually link Heathrow with the Eurostar – just not at St Pancras. The route east goes to Stratford which is being developed for the 2012 Olympics into a major transportation hub including Eurostar services.

    How had I never heard of this beautiful plan!? The map almost makes you want to cry with joy . . .
    http://www.crossrail.co.uk/the-railway/crossrail-maps

    Bobber wrote:

    Speaking of optimism, 45 mins from LHR to Kings Cross. On the Piccadilly Line. THE Piccadilly Line that I know?
    Mmmm.

    Yeah, well, true. I just pulled up the trip planner, but clearly the tube’s reliability is not so good. Still, it does avoid having to lug bags with you through Paddington, even if it does take longer. And while this may be childish, the name Cockfosters has me laughing the entire way in.

  13. Bobber says:

    Don’t dis Cockfosters, Cranky! I live a mile and a half away from Cockfosters Station. I once had a very uncomfortable Tube ride home, having drunk far too much and needing to get rid of some of that beer. It was somewhat disturbing to have the driving repeatedly announce the final destination of the train as ‘Cock.’ ‘Fosters.’ (what with Fosters being a particularly bad lager as well).

    Suffice it to say I cycle the 11 miles to work each way to avoid the crappy Piccadilly Line!

  14. Eurostar is a member of Railteam (http://www.railteam.eu/), an alliance of seven train operators in Europe including DB (Germany) and SNCF (France). I wonder if there will be any integration between Virgin Atlantic and any of those carriers?

    I know that Lufthansa has integration with DB. Do any of the others?

    Re: rail connections – In addition to Crossrail, there has been a lot of talk about more high speed lines in the UK’s future. The most likely candidate would be a high-speed line up to Birmingham and eventually onto Scotland along the west coast. Some of the plans indicate a stop at Heathrow to connect it up to the high-speed network. Obviously, this is all pre-election, pie-in-the-sky talk right now, but if it happens some time in the future, it could mean better connections.

  15. CF says:

    Bobber wrote:

    Don’t dis Cockfosters, Cranky!

    Make no mistake. I think Cockfosters is one of the greatest names ever!

  16. Ron says:

    Now how about one-stop booking with Virgin Trains? Can’t wait to book my one-stop trip from LAX to Crewe.

    QuercyNomad wrote:

    The much promised Crossrail will actually link Heathrow with the Eurostar – just not at St Pancras. The route east goes to Stratford …

    I thought Stratford was supposed to be a partial stop for Eurostar, with many trains skipping it and going directly to St Pancras.

    In Germany for many years now the train between Stuttgart and Frankfurt had a LH flight number alongside the train number and allowed seamless travel between plane and train (including checking bags through to the destination).

    Not to mention that the LH car between Frankfurt and Stuttgart is a 1st class ICE car regardless of the class of travel of your plane ticket. The flip side is that LH-coded train tickets are only good for trains with a designated LH car, even when a regular train can offer a shorter connection (1 hour of my life lost at FRA Fernbahnhof).

  17. Simon Blackburn says:

    @The Travelling Optimist
    There’s actually a big debate at the moment about whether LHR should get a third runway, a high speed rail station on a line going London – LHR – Birmingham and on to Scotland, or both. Don’t hold your breath for either.

    When it was built, wasn’t the Piccadily line the first metro link to any international airport anywhere? Every now and then we do something world-leading, then the rest of the world does it better…

  18. Alex says:

    CF wrote:

    Bobber wrote:
    Don’t dis Cockfosters, Cranky!
    Make no mistake. I think Cockfosters is one of the greatest names ever!

    What about ‘Mudchute’ station on the DLR?

  19. QuercyNomad says:

    Simon Blackburn wrote:

    There’s actually a big debate at the moment about whether LHR should get a third runway, a high speed rail station on a line going London – LHR – Birmingham and on to Scotland, or both. Don’t hold your breath for either.

    The high speed rail line London-Birmingham-Manchester-Scotland is, I think, inevitable – the timescale is the only thing to debate! The powerful argument for early build is that you can take significant traffic off the airlines thus releaving slots at Heathrow. Argument has evidence backing it up if you look at the reduction in flights to Brussels and Paris from London following the introduction of the Eurostar (and in France between Paris and Lyon following the introduction of the TGV line). Immediate need is seen as the introduction of the high speed line to take away the point-to-point traffic from the airport then integrate with the airport (either directly with a stop at the airport or with a spur from an existing terminus). The railway station at Terminal 5 at Heathrow does have spare capacity (2 additional platforms currently unused) that are earmarked for a high speed connection to Waterloo station with a stop at Clapham Junction.

  20. Bobber says:

    @ Alex:

    Phnar, phnar – let the double entendre station special commence!

    Shepherds Bush

  21. Seattle will have a connection in December to Amtrak via our
    Light rail line. The light rail station is at the airport and Amtrak riders can get off at international station and walk one block to Amtrak at King Street Station. It isn’t the best part of town but it’s quite reasonable. Where you’d go after that I don’t know.

  22. Failteam is all talk and no action. Wake me up when I can book a ticket from anywhere in the UK to anywhere in Germany.

  23. Sergio Mello says:

    Bobber wrote:

    Speaking of optimism, 45 mins from LHR to Kings Cross. On the Piccadilly Line. THE Piccadilly Line that I know?
    Mmmm.

    I have just stepped down from the Piccadilly Line (LHR-Gloucester Rd).
    45 minutes. The train stopped THREE times due to traffic congestion.
    Gentlemen, it was 6am!

    I think VS is desperately trying to fill the current demand gap with feeder traffic. Partnering with Eurostar, eyeing bmi, etc.

  24. Jamie says:

    Cockfosters is my local station :D The heathrow express is a step in the right direction but more needs to be done.

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