The United Kingdom has been in the European Union (EU) for 42 years and yet, we have different terms of travel in the UK to Europe. In addition we can book Eurostar (and other European train journeys) four months in advance for the cheapest tickets, yet in the UK we can only book three months in advance.
How does this affect the UK traveller going by train to Europe?
For a start, to get the cheapest Eurostar tickets you need to book four months in advance. Eurostar can book your ticket from any mainline UK station, however, only 3 months in advance. By that time you are paying more for your Eurostar part of the journey.
Is there a solution?
Well you could book Eurostar four months in advance for the cheapest fares and book a ticket with the UK train company three months in advance for their lowest fares.
Good so far, but what happens if your UK train is delayed and you miss your Eurostar connection? Well, you have a problem as you may have to book another Eurostar seat and probably at full price!
Why? Because the UK terms of travel are not Europe’s International Conditions of Carriage (CIV), CIV stands for the French ‘Condition International de Voyage’ I believe.
By not being covered by Europe’s International Conditions of Carriage (CIV), we are not protected if our UK train is delayed and we miss our connection. we will not necessarily be put on the next available Eurostar at no extra cost.
Is there another solution?
Yes, but not a very well known one!
There are special fares from most stations in Britain to a destination called London International (CIV), designed to be used in conjunction with Eurostar tickets. They’re a well-kept secret! If you contact your rail company, the person you speak to may well be clueless as I experience today – I had to educate the people I spoke to and after they spoke to more senior managers availability of these tickets were confirmed.
These fares are specially intended for use in connection with a Eurostar ticket. They come in two versions, Advance (must be booked in advance, the price varies, it’s only valid on the specific train you book) and Open/Saver (flexible, usually valid on any train that day, can be bought on the day of travel, price doesn’t vary). Since 2010 these special tickets to London International no longer exist from every station in Britain, but they still exist from most stations on most train companies’ networks so are well worth knowing about.
These fares are not expensive if booked 3 months in advance, I bought 4 adult tickets and a child ticket from Skipton in North Yorkshire to London International (CIV) and with my Family Railcard it cost me a mere £38.15 (£8.90 for each adult and £2.55 for the child). Without a rail card each adult would have been about £12.00.
You must allow enough time to connect with Eurostar as you need to check in and go through French immigration at the station on the UK side. I check with Eurostar as to time to allow for connection (normally over an hour) as if you leave it too tight and miss your train, you may not be covered to be put on the next available train at no charge as you did not allow for the required connection time between your UK train arriving in London and the Eurostar leaving.
If you are buying a ticket to or from London International (CIV) and you are told it does not exist and you have to book to a mainline station such as London Kings Cross, Euston, St Pancras etc. stand firm and insist that there is one and refer it up to a supervisor or manager if necessary.
I had no problem booking my tickets at Skipton station at the Northern Rail ticket office but when I rang up National Rail enquiries the person I spoke to had no idea about tickets to London International (CIV) and insisted I book to London Kings Cross. Before concluding my enquiry, I told him that he was wrong and needed to ask a manager to advise him. After hanging up I went to Skipton station to book my tickets.
For more comprehensive information, please visit Buying UK Train Tickets to Connect with Eurostar, this is a web site by the Guru of Eurostar and train travel in general The Man in Seat Sixty-One… where you can also book your train journey.
Is it not about time that UK train booking and Terms & Conditions synchronised with Europe after 42 years of EU membership?