JONAS
Jonas Rask Eilersen
Eurostar Standard Premier
London St. Pancras International - Marseille St. Charles
30th November 2015

In May 2015, Eurostar added an exciting year-round service from London to the South of France. With a journey time of 6 hours and 27 minutes, it’s not the fastest way to get from London to Marseille – but, as you may read from the below, the benefits outweigh the drawback of the longer travel time.

Service
I arrived at St. Pancras some 35 minutes before the scheduled departure of 719a.m. Getting through the "formalities" at St. Pancras is easy, quick and painless - I scanned my mobile ticket at the automatic gate, was quickly through security control, and then passed first the UK and then France immigration procedures. Everything took less than five minutes, and there was no need to wait at a check in desk to drop my (large) suitcase (on Eurostar you simply bring all your luggage with you onboard the train - there is plenty of space).

20 minutes before departure, it was announced over the loudspeakers that boarding had commenced on Platform 8. At the entrance to my carriage, my ticket was again checked by a very friendly attendant, and I easily found my seat.

All staff were unfailingly friendly and well groomed - the staff on this service wear a slightly pared down "South of France" Eurostar uniform.
Facilities
The train is the same (old) train set used by Eurostar for its other routes. These very days, both new and refurbished train sets are being introduced across the Eurostar network.

Standard Premier is arranged in a 1-2 configuration, which is good for solo passengers as it means there is the option to sit alone.

If you are travelling as a couple, you can also choose single seats facing each other, or if in a group, pairs facing each other. In adjacent pairs, seat backs have a pocket at chest height for the Eurostar Metropolitan magazine (and any small personal belongings or bottles of water), while a large metal tray table slides up and out.

There are shared power sockets throughout – in my case there was one UK and one EU in the table legs, though they were very hard to find and I only saw them after a member of staff pointed them out. Underneath the table was a small bin beneath the window. Seats have pale grey striped upholstery, winged headrests with padded burgundy leather, and a button in the armrest to slide the seat forward and recline it. The product was very wide and had lots of legroom.

Above the seats were two luggage racks – a broader shelf at the top for small suitcases and a ledge below for jackets. There were also reading lights, curtains and coat hooks. Washrooms were clean but smelt a bit and there were magazine racks in the vestibules with copies of Shortlist, Stylist, Wallpaper, Time and Condé Nast Traveller amongst others.
Journey
We left a couple of minutes prior to scheduled departure, and within minutes were out of London. I was pleased to be served a continental breakfast almost immediately after departure; a large croissant with jam and butter and yogurt. To drink, I was offered orange juice, water, tea and coffee . Standard Premier comes with free catering onboard, and the train attendants were very generous with reflls.

Our first, and only, other stop (picking up passengers that is) was at Ashford International. From here, the train sped through the Chunnel. I was working on my laptop throughout (aided by my 3G device - wifi is not available on this service yet), and then dozed off for about an hour. Sleeping is easy onboard - travelling by train seems to induce sleep!

Around 12pm, a light lunch was served; I was offered the choice of either a pork and lentils dish or Thai chicken. I chose the latter - it was served with fresh breads and a chocolate tart made up the dessert. All was very delicious, I have to say. I also had some white wine (a Sauvignon Blanc) and was offered plenty of refills. All close to perfect.

After slightly over four hours of travel, we arrived in Lyon, where the train made a quick stop. We then sped off for Avignon and finally Marseille. We arrived in Marseille with a slight delay of 12 minutes.
Perceived Value
A bargain - I paid only some GBP100 for this journey (which barely covers the taxi to and from Heathrow....)
Verdict
My Eurostar experience today confirmed to me that travelling by high speed train in so many ways is preferable to planes. The fact that you commence and end your journey in the city centre, alongside the high level of comfort and service are benefits which the plane, and its associated stresses, can just not compete with.

The only slight drawback is the lack of wifi onboard - something which is being dealt with as the new and refurbished trains are introduced.