Travel Tips

Monthly travel tips

TRAVEL TIP OCTOBER 2023

Trevor Garrod

Bicycles by Eurostar

A regular Eurostar customer writes:
I had to get my bike from Brussels to London at fairly short notice. It was a slow process but I achieved it with kind help of a customer services staffer after explaining my circumstances:
1. A Eurostar ticket and booking reference are required before you can book space for your bicycle and this can take 7 – 10 days.
2. Only certain trains take bikes “fully assembled” between London and Brussels. There is space for 4 bikes on each of them.
3. Contacting the Eurostar customer services line on 0343 2186186 was fruitful.
4. The process requires you to fill in a form to register the bike.
5. A payment link is e-mailed (eventually) which, when paid (£45) promptly delivers by e-mail consignment notes and instructions.
6. Consignment notes are “tickets” for bikes and you cannot get your machine on the train without one.

Euro High Savers

Another customer writes:

Euro High Savers, also known as London CIV tickets or London International tickets are flexible tickets that are designed for passengers starting an international journey. If your local station has a ticket office, they should be able to sell you one of these on presentation of your Eurostar ticket. Most websites do not sell Euro High Savers. One that does is www.trainsplit.com. To select, use Split Tickets and type LNE as your destinations. It should then sell you such a ticket.

TRAVEL TIP AUGUST2023

Trevor Garrod

HOEK VAN HOLLAND – Little things mean a lot

Our Travel Tip for April described how easier it had become to interchange between ferry and metro (the light rail system operated by RET) at Hoek van Holland Haven.

It has now become even easier as you can travel contactless on the metro service. AERA’s secretary appreciated this when arriving of the night ferry in steady rain in early August and no longer needing to stand and tap into the ticket machine to obtain a 2-hour card. Now he just had to use his VISA card to open the barrier. One or two extra shelters on the platform would be welcome, however, at busy times, such as on that August morning.

Meanwhile the interchange between this metro line and the east/west main line at Rotterdam Alexander, where there had been “work in progress” for a few years, is complete and user-friendly. The station includes a large cafe, toilets and shops plus a small interchange for local buses.

TRAVEL TIP JULY 2023

Trevor Garrod

MULTIMODAL TO DUBLIN

Traditionally it was possible to go by train from England and Wales to Holyhead, ferry to Dun Laoghaire and train to the centre of Dublin. For several years, however, ferries from Holyhead have docked at Dublin Port, at the mouth of the LIffey estuary and travel into the city has been by road. Ferry transfer arrangements improved in June, as the Stena Line sailing from Holyhead (connecting off the 09.02 from London Euston) now has a Nolan Coaches transfer from the Stena Line terminal direct to Connolly station and then Heuston station.

The morning bus connecting with the 08.15 Stena Line sailing similarly starts from Heuston again now. This bus also connects with the 08.05 Irish Ferries sailing to Holyhead. For more information log on to https://nolancoaches.ie/services/ferrylink/

TRAVEL TIP JUNE 2023

Trevor Garrod

EUROSTAR EXTENDS BICYCLE CARRIAGE

Further to our Travel Tip of February 2023, we are now informed by Cycling UK that Eurostar is now accepting bicycles again on its London – Brussels services. Fully assembled and boxed or bagged bicycles can be carried. You have to book a train ticket first and then call or email travelservices@eurostar.com to see if the train on which you wish to travel also has space for your machine.

Hopefully fully assembled bikes to also been accepted on the Eurostars to and from Paris in the near future and it is planned to introduce them to Amsterdam by 2025.

Meanwhile, your bicycle can also go through the Channel Tunnel on a shuttle train, as Eurotunnel also offers a cycle carriage facility. Whichever of these options you take, there will be a charge.

 

TRAVEL TIP MAY 2023

Trevor Garrod

“A FASCINATING VENTURE OFF THE MORE PREDICTABLE EUROPEAN HOLIDAY MAP”

This was the verdict of one member taking part in a 15-person group visit which I organised to Lubeck in May.

Schleswig-Holstein, the northernmost federal state in Germany, is a little easier to reach by train now that we have Eurostars from London to Amsterdam and can change there for a DB train to Osnabruck, Hanover  and beyond. Thus Lubeck can be only two changes of train from London.

Our group also appreciated the Schleswig-Holstein Ticket, from 29 euro for one person up to 49 euro for a group of five, enabling as many trips as possible within one day throughout Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg and the neighbouring state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and including public transport in two zones of Hamburg.

Schleswig-Holstein is a little bit like East Anglia (in fact, the original Angles are believed to have come from there), with historic towns and cities, flat or gently undulating countryside, picturesque lakes and extensive beaches.

Our group took in Schwerin with its beautiful castle,  Rendsburg with its spectacular bridge over the Kiel Canal and the holiday island of Sylt, as well as historic Lubeck itself. Some rode on part of the Tonning – Flensburg railway built by the English entrepreneur Morton Peto in the 1850s. Plon, surrounded by lakes and wooded hills was also a favourite. Last but not least, the weather was excellent!

It was certainly a region to be recommended!

TRAVEL TIP APRIL 2023

Trevor Garrod

RAIL/SEA/RAIL VIA HOEK VAN HOLLAND BECOMES A LITTLE EASIER

This route to mainland Europe has just become a little easier  with the opening of the light rail (or metro) extension  to Hoek van Holland Strand and, with it, the brand new through station at Hoek van Holland Haven.

On April 5th I disembarked  from the night  ferry at 08.05 and and at 09.15 was on an Inter City train from Rotterdam heading to Brussels.

Instead of a 500 meter trek to a temporary wooden platform, you now walk 30 meters from the ferry terminal exit to the new station. A notice (only in Dutch), directs you there and you can then buy your RET chip card from a machine if you have not already ordered it on line. 

The trains are busy at this time of the morning, with people travelling into Rotterdam to work, but if you know what you are doing you can quickly change at Schiedam Centrum to catch a train up the coast to The Hague and Amsterdam or catch a frequent train into Rotterdam Centraal and continue east or south. If your final destination is Utrecht or Germany, however, you also have the option of continuing on the metro line to the modern suburb of Alexander and changing there to an Inter City train.

TRAVEL TIP MARCH 2023

RAIL – AIR – RAIL

While we encourage people to travel between the UK and the rest of Europe by rail, there are certain destinations where the rail alternative is not practical, e.g. to/from Greece. If you fly into Gatwick, you find a station fully connected  to the rest of the GB rail network. You would expect a similar situation now at Heathrow. One of our members carried out some mystery shopping in March using a one-day all zones travelcard from Brighton.

All 3 stations at Heathrow have ticket machines on the concourse next to the platforms. T4 and T5 have machines at the exits from the arrivals hall next to the station. T2 and T3 do not. You can buy  a ticket from one of the booths named Travel support & Information: while the staff seem to have a good knowledge of the ticketing system, any ticket bought there carries a £7 surcharge! Staff are generally available nearby to help passengers  navigate the machines.

A limited range of tickets is available for most destinations. There is a problem buying tickets to destinations (outside the Oyster zones) on Southern. You cannot even buy a ticket from Heathrow to Gatwick, where the rail options is now more attractive with just one change at Farringdon

TRAVEL TIP FEBRUARY 2023

HOEK VAN HOLLAND

AERA’s Secretary has been in contact with Stena Line about tickets for onward travel for passengers arriving on the ferry at Hoek van
Holland.

The ferry company has told us that they have been in discussion with RET, the public transport operator for the Rotterdam conurbation,
which runs the light rail (or metro) link from Hoek van Holland Haven.

They considered producing a brochure but decided in the end that a new website would be better: https://www.ret.nl/home/reizen/stenaline.html

This website tells passengers how to buy tickets and recommends purchasing these in advance to avoid queues at the ticket vending machine.

Stena Line have also asked that pre-departure e-mails sent to customers shortly before they leave should contain this link.

We in AERA will be pleased to receive feedback from for passengers buying RET tickets in advance.

TAKING A BICYCLE ON EUROSTAR

We are pleased to learn, via the campaign organisation Cycling UK, that from January 25 th cyclists have again been able to take their machines on Eurostar between London and Paris (but not yet on the Brussels and Amsterdam service).

At the start of the pandemic in March 2020 the operator closed its facility for oversized luggage, but this has been made available again. You must book your train ticket first and then e-mail (or call) travelservices@eurostar.com to check if there is room for the bicycle on your chosen train.

Cycling UK says that it “has good reason to believe Eurostar is doing all it can to reopen this service in the near future to other destinations.”

Again – we in AERA will be keen to learn of the experiences of readers taking a bicycle by Eurostar.

TRAVEL TIP FEBRUARY 2023

HOEK VAN HOLLAND

AERA’s Secretary has been in contact with Stena Line about tickets for onward travel for passengers arriving on the ferry at Hoek van
Holland.

The ferry company has told us that they have been in discussion with RET, the public transport operator for the Rotterdam conurbation,
which runs the light rail (or metro) link from Hoek van Holland Haven.

They considered producing a brochure but decided in the end that a new website would be better: https://www.ret.nl/home/reizen/stenaline.html

This website tells passengers how to buy tickets and recommends purchasing these in advance to avoid queues at the ticket vending machine.

Stena Line have also asked that pre-departure e-mails sent to customers shortly before they leave should contain this link.

We in AERA will be pleased to receive feedback from for passengers buying RET tickets in advance.

TAKING A BICYCLE ON EUROSTAR

We are pleased to learn, via the campaign organisation Cycling UK, that from January 25 th cyclists have again been able to take their machines on Eurostar between London and Paris (but not yet on the Brussels and Amsterdam service).

At the start of the pandemic in March 2020 the operator closed its facility for oversized luggage, but this has been made available again. You must book your train ticket first and then e-mail (or call) travelservices@eurostar.com to check if there is room for the bicycle on your chosen train.

Cycling UK says that it “has good reason to believe Eurostar is doing all it can to reopen this service in the near future to other destinations.”

Again – we in AERA will be keen to learn of the experiences of readers taking a bicycle by Eurostar.

TRAVEL TIP OCTOBER 2022

EUROSTAR

The European Passengers’ Federation, of which AERA is an associate member – has been invited to send representatives to an annual meeting of the combined Eurostar and Thalys companies. There will be discussion of the future strategy of the combined operation and also the opportunity to  work in specialist sub-committees on matters such as ticketing, connections and marketing.

Meanwhile, AERA’s Secretary has written to the Secretary of State for Transport, the Opposition transport spokesperson and the Chair of the House of Commons Select Committee on Transport. The letter, headed “The Future of Eurostar”  urges the Government to create a fairer framework in which Eurostar can compete, addressing  such issues as track access charges and border controls.

GERMAN 9-EURO TICKET SUCCESSOR

In mid October the Federal Government decided on  proposals for a successor to the 9-Euroticket which boosted  passenger numbers on regional and local trains during the summer.

It is planned to introduce a 49-Euro per month “Deutschlandticket” early in 2023. It will be a subscription giving free unlimited travel on all regional trains and buses, including trams, metros and S-bahn networks throughout the country.

Stand by for further announcements before the end of the year.

TRAVEL TIP OCTOBER 2021

CROSSING PARIS – This is a little more complex than crossing London, because you need a RATP ticket as well as your rail ticket if travelling from, say, London to any destination beyond Paris. It is possible to buy a carnet of metro tickets from the cafe Metropole on board the Eurostar and thus save time at the Gare du Nord.

We have been informed that from October 1st 2021 the traditional carnet is to be phased out and replaced by an Easy Navigo card – but as of mid-October, it was still possible to buy the carnet.

DEUTSCHE BAHN is still recovering from the severe flooding in July in the west of the country and the total repair bill is expected to be 1.5bn euro. Euskirchen is still being served by replacement buses on all four lines and trains there are not expected to resume till mid-2022.

FOOT PASSENGER ACCESS TO FERRIES – Harwich International Port remains the model, with a good train service and step-free access to the ferries; while at Hoek van Holland there is a frequent metro service to Schiedam and Rotterdam Blaak and Alexander with easy interchange with the Dutch rail network.

At the other end of the spectrum, none of the Dover ferries accepts foot passengers. When passenger sailings resume from Tyne Commission Quay, bus service 327 will resume from Bewick Street, diagonally opposite Newcastle Central Station.

Foot passengers are allowed on ferries from Newhaven, Portsmouth and Plymouth. Rail access is possible at Newhaven  (but there is a 35-minute
walk from the terminal at Dieppe to the station), and a bus service is understood to operate between Portsmouth & Southsea station and the
ferry terminal.  We welcome feedback from readers using these services.

TRAVEL TIP JULY 2021

What is RailTeam?
It is a grouping of high-speed operators, such as Eurostar and Deutsche Bahn, whose trains connect with each other at key hubs such as Brussels and Cologne. If you miss a connection because your train is delayed, you can hop on the next high-speed train. You should just ask the station staff (at, say, Brussels or Cologne) to put a “RailTeam” stamp on your ticket.

TRAVEL TIP FEBRUARY 2020

A CIV ticket to London International enables you to cross the city at any time, not only to catch a ferry to Ireland or the Continent, but also to Heysham for a ferry to the Isle of Man. Following discussion with the Rail Delivery Group, we can confirm that CIV tickets will also be accepted to cross-London journeys before 10.00. This is important for passengers from south of the Thames travelling to Heysham to catch the daily ferry to Douglas.

TRAVEL TIP OCTOBER 2019

Welcome back to Hoekse Lijn! 
Since the end of September, the new light rail service has been operating every 20 minutes from Hoek van Holland Haven. This brings seamless rail/sea/rail travel back to the route between the UK and the Netherlands and a gap of more than two years, while the Hoekse Lijn was being converted and tested.

After the passport check, ferry passengers walk out of the terminal and along the platform to board the train, whose destination screen says “Nesselande.” It takes 50 minutes to speed through the western suburbs of Rotterdam, including 14 minutes in tunnel under the city centre and out into the eastern suburbs to Alexander, where you can change to a mainline train to Utrecht and beyond. You could also change at Schiedam for frequent services to The Hague and Amsterdam or to Rotterdam Centraal; and at Blaak for a stopping train to the south. The train also calls at metro stations in the city centre.

“The “Dutch Flyer” offer includes a Combi-Ticket giving unlimited travel for a day on RET (The Rotterdam public transport network) and NS (Dutch Railways) |Since January 2020 the Combi-Ticket on a piece of card has been replaced by one that can be downloaded and, if necessary, printed off the NS website after the insertion of a code. The ferry staff and NS ticket office staff have been very helpful in this respect.”. If you are going just to Rotterdam, for business or pleasure, then a ticket from the reception on the ship or the ticket vending machine on the platform at Hoek van Holland Haven, may be all that you need.

The light rail trains do not have as much luggage space as traditional trains but at least you will have plenty of room when boarding at the terminus, and the average commuter into Rotterdam does not carry much luggage! Bicycles can be taken, except in the morning and evening rush hours Monday to Friday and on special event days.

TRAVEL TIP JULY 2019

What is RailTeam?
It is a grouping of high-speed operators, such as Eurostar and Deutsche Bahn, whose trains connect with each other at key hubs such as Brussels and Cologne.
If you miss a connection because your train is delayed, you can hop on the next high-speed train. You should just ask the station staff (at, say, Brussels or Cologne) to put a “RailTeam” stamp on your ticket.

TRAVEL TIP MAY 2019

Enforcing Passenger Rights
If you have problems with train services within Great Britain, concerning delays and missed connections, for example, you should contact Transport Focus.
www.transportfocus.org.uk

TRAVEL TIP APRIL 2019

Did you know that you can buy a special ticket from your local station to “London International” when you travel by Eurostar? It enables you to travel by any train and is especially useful if the Eurostar is delayed or if you have to travel in the peak period.

This ticket is also called a “London CIV” or “Euro High Saver” ticket. If you purchase it from a station booking office, you should be prepared to show your Eurostar ticket.

TRAVEL TIP MARCH 2019

Did you know that you could leave London in the early morning and be in Barcelona by the evening?  Or leave Manchester at breakfast time and enjoy your evening meal in Frankfurt?

For longer journeys on the Continent, there are still night trains in many countries – so lunch in London and breakfast next morning as you approach Vienna is a possibility.

Your journey may start in Scotland on the Caledonian Sleeper; or involve one leg by air or ferry, to be completed by train. It could also have the flexibility that comes with an Interrail pass.

On a business trip, you probably want a fast journey with minimal changes and space to work – so Eurostar, Thalys, ICE, and TGV are all high-speed options – as far as for example, Spain and Italy. You may also want to reserve a seat or indeed a cabin on a night train.

On a leisure trip, however, you may prefer to go “the pretty way” – by normal InterCity train down the scenic Rhine Gorge, or tourist train over the classic Lotschberg or St Gotthard line rather than the new base tunnel.