I travelled in Eurostar Standard Premier from London to Amsterdam which took just 3.5 hours travel 400 miles to the other side of the North Sea! The Eurostar E320 travels at speeds of 186mph as it crosses England, France, Belgium and the Netherlands for the journey from St Pancras International to Amsterdam Centraal.
St Pancras has changed a lot in the last 20 years. These platforms used to be the Midland Mainlind platforms until the station was overhauled when Eurostar services moved here.
My favourite part of St Pancras is the piece of artwork by the artist Tracey Emin. The words next to the big clock always symbolise to me either saying goodbye to home as I go away, or being welcomed back home after a trip away.
You arrive for Eurostar services around 40 minutes to an hour ahead of departure. First up is a ticket check, followed by a quick security check. It’s pretty simple and there’s no need to remove liquids or electronics.
After security there’s two passport checks – the first by the British authorities and the second by the French to allow access to the Schengen area, which the UK isn’t a part of.
There’s a lounge here that’s accessible to passengers traveling on a business premier ticket, but if you aren’t you can save your money and get something tasty from Pret for a fraction of the price.
Pretty soon it was time to board.
Eurostar use newer E320 trains on the Amsterdam route, which are a lot more modern and spacious onboard thaan the older trains.
Right on time, we pulled out of St Pancras to head across the Channel.
Within a few minutes of leaving St Pancras, we were cruising through the Kent countryside at over 180mph.
First meal service today was a sandwich, served with complimentary beer and wine, but I just took a glass of coke.
Around half an hour after leaving St Pancras, we’d traveled the 67 miles to the UK portal of the channel tunnel.
The Channel Tunnel is a remarkable feat of engineering. Opened in 1994, it tunnels 250ft beneath the sea bed of the English Channel.
Through the tunnel it takes just 20 minutes to cross the 31 miles to mainland Europe. I still genuinely find it incredible that thanks to the tunnel, human ingenuity, and friendship between nations, our little island is now connected physically to the rest of Europe, and despite the best efforts of politicians we are closer than ever to our European neighbours.
Remarkably there’s a full 4G phone signal down here too, meaning it’s no different to taking a train on the mainland.
In no time at all we emerged in Northern France.
First stop in France was Lille Europe, close to the border with Belgium
After Lille, we crossed our second international border into Belgium, ahead of our second stop of the day – Brussels Midi.
At Brussels there was a crew change, but before long we were off again, cruising through the Belgian countryside. We passed Brussels airport as we headed towards The Netherlands.
There was a further snack service after Brussels, and I took a beer and a snack box, which the train manager referred to as ‘a three course meal in a box’. It didn’t quite live up to those expectations, but still I admired his efforts.
We were soon slowing down for our final stop – Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. Many of the passengers got off the train here, and I wondered quite what the appeal of Rotterdam was compared to all the other stops on the route.
After Rotterdam we cruised across The Netherlands at 186mph. The Eurostar E320 train has a top speed of 200mph, but are limited to 186, or 300kph.
We stopped briefly at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport where we were held by a signal. The Eurostar doesn’t serve Schiphol however, so even though I had a connecting flight from the airport I had to continue to Amsterdam Centraal before getting a local train back to the airport.
It would be good if Eurostar served Schiphol and would allow some great onward connectivity by air.
From Schiphol it’s just a short journey into the centre of Amsterdam.
I found it incredible to be able to get a direct train from London to the centre of Amsterdam, right across the North Sea from the UK. It really goes to show just how close we in the UK are to the rest of Europe, and serves as a great example of what we can do when we all work together.