The proposed new route could open as soon as 2020.
It’s been nearly 24 years since the Chunnel — the over 31-mile rail tunnel connecting England to France under the English Channel — first opened. If you’ve never done it before, the trip is truly amazing: The Eurostar can take you from downing pints in a London pub to sipping wine outside a Paris café in just over two hours without ever leaving the ground. However, as any sensible Brit knows, the real reason to cross the channel is to stock up on that legendary French wine, and if all goes according to plan, soon the Chunnel will be able to help you with that, too as a new proposal hopes to open direct service from London to Bordeaux.
Train travel between London and Bordeaux is available, but currently, the route requires a change of trains with a layover in Paris. As a result, it takes 5 hours, 25 minutes — including a 65-minute stop in Paris — to get to the famed wine country and 6 hours, 26 minutes — including a 1-hour and 55-minute stop in Paris — on the way back. Part of the longer return time is due to the need to go through border control during that Paris stop before crossing back into the U.K.
The proposed direct line would take under 5 hours both ways because border control could take place before passengers board the train in Bordeaux. And not content with simply preventing any stop in Paris, the planned route would even bypass Paris altogether. The hope is that the new service could be open as soon as 2020.
However, the project is more than just the work of a single operator. According to The Drinks Business, the plan is being led by the U.K.-based HS1 rail network, but this group still needs help from the French-based Lisea, Eurotunnel, and SNCF Réseau to make the idea a reality.
“As we’ve seen with the recent introduction of the Eurostar London-Amsterdam service, there’s a real demand for international train services to provide a comfortable and better-connected service, especially for leisure journeys,” Dyan Crowther, chief executive of HS1 Ltd, was quoted as saying. “This is the first time that railway operators have collaborated in this way and saves the train operator having to do a lot of legwork. The route is almost ready for a train operator to turn up and turn the key as soon as the U.K. and French Governments agree on border controls ... With the right commitment, we could be looking at new services in the next couple of years.”
As far as planning your next European vacation, if the new route becomes a reality, it could certainly be a game changer. “The service will take passengers direct from city centre to city centre, taking the hassle out of travel to South West France,” Crowther added. Alright, but will they have room for all of your luggage? Which is definitely not three suitcases filled to the brim with wine. There’s a swimsuit in there somewhere.