The Saone River in Lyon at sunset (photo © Beatrice Preve / dreamstime.com).
Update 18h CET: We are grateful to Eurostar for getting in touch with us since we first published this piece earlier today. They have advised that it is indeed their intention that soundbound trains should pause at Lyon Saint-Exupéry to allow passengers to alight (as a substitute on weekdays in April for the regular Lyon Part-Dieu stop). However, Eurostar is not yet able to confirm when bookings will open.
Looking at the spring 2016 train timetables, we notice that in April 2016 Eurostar is cutting out the intermediate stop at Lyon Part Dieu on some journeys between London and the south of France.
Regular rail travellers get to know the pattern of train service on their favourite routes, and woe betide the operator who fiddles with that pattern. Eurostar’s decision to cancel a number of Saturday services from London to Lyon and Marseille this month and next may have cut losses on a handful of services which may otherwise have only been lightly loaded – but it surely irritated passengers who were well used to the fact that there was a year-round Saturday train from London to Lyon and back.
Now we see that Eurostar is also tinkering with its spring timetable, and it’ll not please travellers on the London to Lyon route. The regular Saturday service is secure, but weekday services in April from London to Marseille (which run on Mondays and Fridays) will not serve Lyon Part Dieu station as they sprint south towards Provence. Skipping Lyon does trim ten minutes off the journey time from London (and Ashford) to Avignon.
This tweaking of the timetable will annoy passengers who might have chosen to use the train to travel just to Lyon Part Dieu - which has an excellent range of onward connections (including a very useful connecting train to Barcelona). We have heard rumours that these Eurostars may make a compensatory stop at Lyon Saint-Exupéry station. That's well out of the city centre at the airport, and that station does not offer the same range of connecting trains. We'd welcome confirmation on this question of a possible Saint-Exupéry stop. Our hunch is that it might be merely for operational purposes (eg. a crew change) in which case passengers would probably not be able to alight.
Interestingly, even on days when Eurostar misses out Lyon on the southbound run to Marseille, it looks as though those same trains will serve Lyon Part Dieu as they head back north in the late afternoon.