The developments described in this update were first published as a hidden europe note on 29 August 2010. We heard about them just in time to include them in the 2011 edition of Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide for Independent Travellers. Indeed, that new edition of the book, due out in March 2011, has much improved coverage of the Eurostar network. When we were appointed last year by Thomas Cook Publishing to take over as editors of the book, we were surprised at how little mention the book made of Eurostar. That all changes with the 2011 edition which will include a special feature on how Eurostar has transformed links between Britain and the continent.
As we are asked pretty often about the three classes of travel on Eurostar, we have decided that it is worth reproducing our original note here on the Europe by Rail website.
There are a few changes on Eurostar this week with the introduction of a new Standard Premier class on services linking London with Brussels and Paris. Standard Premier replaces Leisure Select as the middle tier of the three class service on Eurostar’s capital city services. (Different arrangements obtain on Eurostar’s direct trains to Marne-la-Vallée, Avignon and to the French Alps where a two tier rather than a three class system applies).
On the face of it, Standard Premier has more in common with the class above it (Business Premier) than with the lowest class (Standard). Like the Leisure Select product it replaces, Standard Premier relies on a much more spacious seating configuration which is the same as that found in Business Premier. Expect 39 seats per carriage rather than the 54 on Standard Class carriages. That, at least, marks out Standard Premier as having a hint of first class about it.
Leisure Select passengers who have come to enjoy free champagne on their Eurostar journeys will get free fizz for the last time on Tuesday. When Standard Premier kicks in on Wednesday 1 September, passengers will find that the drinks offering is more limited, with passengers being given just one small bottle of wine (or, if they prefer, a beer). And hot meals are out too, as Standard Premier passengers will henceforth be offered a cold collation. On lunchtime and evening services, a light cold meal will be served, consisting of what Eurostar temptingly call “three small savoury tasting dishes.” Probably not a meal for the ravenous, but surely all that is needed for a short train journey.
While some bemoan this new development, we see it as being probably no bad move. The availability of the middle class on Eurostar is a big bonus, and for many passengers the real draw is surely a much more comfortable seat and heaps of extra space. Those who need their champagne and hot dinners can still trade up to Business Premier, while Standard Premier will surely be an attractive product for travellers who feel that they might just be able to survive a two or three hour train journey without champagne.
A big plus is that until now all Leisure Select class tickets on Eurostar’s capital city services have been non-changeable. In the new Standard Premier class, Eurostar now introduces a semi-flexible ticket for passengers who value the chance to change the date or time of their journey.