The Anonymous Widower

London To Karlsruhe Via Paris

I took Eurostar and a TGV to Karlsruhe, using these trains.

  1. Eurostar – St. Pancras 08:19 – Paris Nord 11:47 – £115 from Eurostar
  2. TGV – Paris Est 13:55 – Karlsruhe 16:25 – £69.19 from Voyages SNCF

I took these pictures on the way.

Note.

  1. I bought both tickets on-line.
  2. Premium Economy in the new Eurostar trains is more cramped than the old ones.
  3. Eurostar’s Premium Economy gluten-free breakfast more than filled a hole.
  4. Paris Nord to Paris Est is just a Metro.
  5. I took a diversion via Republik, which was a good place to wait in the sun.
  6. I stayed in the Schlosshotel in Karlsruhe, which was one of several acceptable ones by the station.

I could probably have done the journey cheaper by flying, but it would have had more hassle.

April 30, 2017 Posted by | Food, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Extending The Docklands Light Railway West From Bank Station

Two possible routes have been proposed foe extending the Docklands Light Railway to the West

Whether either is worth developing, I don’t know.

But consider.

  • The Thameslink Programme will improve access between London Bridge and Charing Cross stations, which could take pressure off the Jubilee Line.
  • The Thameslink Programme will improve Southeastern services into Cannon Street and Charing Cross stations.
  • Charing Cross station has a couple of spare platforms, that some would like to re-use.
  • Euston and St. Pancras stations have bad access to Canary Wharf and South East London.
  • The Bakerloo Line Extension has been given the green light.
  • Crossrail connects Canary Wharf to Bond Strreet, Heathrow, Liverpool Street and Paddington.

But the big issue, is what happens about Crossrail 2.

I feel that the more likely extension to the West is to go from Bank to Euston via City Thameslink and Holborn and/or Tottenham Court Road stations and finish by going on to St. Pancras.

It could link HS2 at Euston and European services at St. Pancras to the following.

  • Thameslink at City Thameslink station.
  • Crossrail at Tottenham Court Road station.
  • Bank and Canary Wharf stations.

It would also provide a decent link between the long distance services at Euston, Kings Cross and St. Pancras.

These factors would also influence the design of the DLR Extension.

  • The DLR has all the agility of a mountain coat to climb hills and turn sharply, so it might be possible to squeeze it through places impossible for a Crossrail or an Underground line.
  • 3D-design techniques are getting better every year.
  • Tunnel boring machines are getting more accurate.
  • Escalators are getting longer.

So could we see the extension going from Bank to City Thameslink as a traditional extension and then going in a long double-track loop via some or all of the following stations.

  • Holborn
  • Tottenham Court Road
  • Oxford Circus
  • Regents Park
  • Euston
  • St. Pancras
  • Covent Garden

It would all depend on where they could squeeze the tracks through.

  • Stations could be island platforms between the tracks.
  • Platform edge doors could be fitted.
  • Escalators and lifts could link the platforms to existing station.

There’s no reason why the line should be designed traditionally for the DLR.

 

February 17, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Eurostar Platforms At Waterloo Station Are Being Brought Back Into Use

When travelling to Shepperton, I walked from Waterloo East station to the balcony at Waterloo station.

You get a good view of the disused Eurostar plaforms, which are being brought back into use.

I also took a few as my train left the station.

At least this monument to bad planning of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, is being put to a laudable use of providing more capacity at Waterloo.

There’s some more pictures from before the work started in Waterloo’s Blue Elephant.

October 31, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

A Design Crime – Ebbsfleet International Station

If there is one station in the UK, that has been deliberately designed to be difficult to use, it is Ebbsfleet #international station.

Take this evening, when I had taken a lift to the station after the football at Ipswich, as the Great Eastern Main Line was having its annual rebuild and I didn’t want to spend an hour in a rickety bus, rather than in a comfortable Mark 3 coach.

Arrive at most stations in the UK or the world for that matter, and the first thing that you see is a ticket office or a ticket machine.

But not at Ebbsfleet International!

You are presented with a departure board, which tells you where trains will be going and if like me, you are going to St. Pancras International station, you notice that alternative trains leave from platform 2 and 5. Platform 2 is to the left on the level and platform 5 is to the right down a set of steps

So if you have just a fewminutes before your train, perhaps it would be a good idea to buy a ticket, as you enter the station.

But you can’t, as the only ticket machines are by the platforms. on either side.

Whose stupid idea was this?

If ever a station needed a ticket machine as you come in, with a sign saying that the next St. Pancras train leaves from platform X, it is Ebbsfleet International.

As it was, after about four minutes, I was able to determine that I had twelve minutes before the next train from platform 5, so I was able to walk down the set of steps, buy a ticket and get to the draughty platform about eight minutes before the train arrived.

Is Ebbsfleet International, the only station in the UK, where to transfer across a concourse between two ends, there is a set of steps in the middle?

It could be considered that Manchester Piccadilly has steps, but it does have fifteen platforms and was designed over a period of well over a hundred years.

The entry problem could be eliminated by more or relocated ticket machines and a small display telling passengers for St. Pancras, where to go.

It is all down to the bizarre layout of the station.

This Google Map shows the two-station layout of the station.

Ebbsfleet International Station

Ebbsfleet International Station

The lines going North South through the station are the Eurostar and the HighSpeed domestic services between St. Pancras International and Ashford International stations. The lines branching off to the South East, take the Highspeed domestic services to Faversham.

The Faversham lines have their own platforms 5 and 6 and there are two other platforms 2 and 3 in the other side of the station, sandwiched in-between the Eurostar lines.

This station was built on a green field site with plenty of space, so surely a better layout of lines could have been provided so that all Highspeed domestic services used the same pair of platforms.

Getting There

Ebbsfleet International was certainly designed to be difficult to get to from other parts of the London and the South East.

Romford is a major station in East London, with this recommended route to Ebbfleet Inyternational.

  • TfL Rail to Stratford
  • DLR to Stratford International
  • Highspeed to Ebbsfleet International.

It may be step-free, but there is certainly quite a distance on the flat.

This is the route from Guildford

  • South West Trains to Vauxhall
  • Victoria Line to St. Pancras
  • Highspeed to Ebbsfleet International

Not a route that I’d recommend to anybody with a heavy  case or any difficulty in walking.

This is the route from Greenwich.

  • Southeastern to Charlton
  • Southeastern to Gravesend
  • Highspeed to Ebbsfleet International

That route truly is a corker.

This one might improve as according to Modern Railways for August 2016, that Thameslink will be starting a service between Luton and Rainham via Dartford and Greenwich. Hopefully this would mean a route from Greenwich to Ebbsfleet Internation as follows.

  • Thameslink to Gravesend
  • Highspeed to Ebbsfleet International

That is only one change, but you’d still need to go over the step-free bridge at Gravesend.

The solution would be to do either of the following.

  • Create a proper passenger connection between Northfleet and Ebbsfleet International stations.
  • Allow North Kent services that go to and from Dartford to call at Ebbsfleet International station.

Why didn’t the traditional North Kent services call at Ebbsfleet International station from Day 1?

Get the connection right and all those stations between London Bridge and Rainham would have a two trains per hour service to Ebbsfleet International.

Future Expansion

Ebbsfleet International also seems to be designed deliberately to make extension difficult.

Space for extra platforms for these possible services seems not to have been left.

  • Termination of Continental services, should St. Pancras get too busy.
  • A Crossrail extension from Abbey Wood station.
  • An East-West service from Reading and Gatwick.

Expansion can only probably be achieved by  adding further complication and difficulties for passengers at this truly dreadful station.

The designer’s dictionary, certainly didn’t include that important word future-proofing.

He certainly gave Eurostar and the Highspeed domestic services, one of the least passenger-friendly stations in the world. that fits well with Eurostar’s other crap stations.

  • The extremely passenger-unfriendly St. Pancras.
  • The bleak, isolated and draughty Stratford International

Perhaps the airline industry had a hand in its design, in the hope they could strangle the whole enterprise!

Stratford and Ebbsfleet could also have been designed the way they are, so that they didn’t have easy and quick interchanges with Crossrail.

That would have meant, that passengers would use this more affordable service rather than the expensive Highspeed domestic ones, that always seem half-empty, when I use them.

The three stations are all certainly design crimes and taken together they make the Channel Tunnel Rail Link a design crime of the most immense proportions

But given that it is impossible to do much with the station, what should be done now?

  • The draughty space between the two separate stations, should be made more welcoming.
  • Information should tell passengers the next trains to all stations.
  • Ticket machines must be provided as you enter, rather than being hidden away.
  • The steps to platforms 5 and 6, should be replaced by short escalators and an inclined lift.

Perhaps most importantly, contactless ticketing using bank cards and Oyster must be available on all Highspeed domestic services. I can use that to get to Gatwick Airport, so why not Ebbsfleet International?

Related Posts

A Trip To Sheppey

A Twelve-Car Ready Railway

Along The North Kent Line

Between Abbey Wood And Belvedere Stations

Connecting North Kent And The Medway Towns To Ebbsfleet International Station

Extending Crossrail To Gravesend

Rainham (Kent) Station

Thameslink To Rainham

Through The Medway Towns

What Do You Do With A Problem Like Sheppey?

 

 

September 18, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 7 Comments

Brussels Station Has Got A Whole Lot Worse!

I think in future, if I have the choice of Eurostar terminals in Europe, I won’t be choosing Brussels!

I arrived in Brussels with about three hours to waste before my train to London left.

So I thought, I’d perhaps take a Metro train somewhere sensible and have coffee and breakfast. There’s nothing in the station that is gluten-free, so forget that one!

But they’ve changed the ticketing on the Metro and it looks like you need to use an Oyster-style ticket. I don’t do those sorts of things, as usually ou have to load a lot mopre money than the ticket and when you go back, you of course forget the card.

Why can’t these places allowed a contactless bankcard as a ticket like London?

So I thought, I’d go to the Tourist Office upstairs and complain! But that has been closed.

I tried the guy doing the train information for Belgian Railways and he couldn’t help. He also told me, he was fed up with the situation.

The Tourist Office is some distance away and you need to use the Metro.

So only go through Brussels, if you don’t want to use the Metro, get advice from the Tourist Office or eat something that is gluten-free.

I couldn’t even find a McDonalds, where I could buy some gluten-free chips.

If Brussels station is going to go downhill like this, the sooner, that Cologne is a Eurostar destination the better.

May 15, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 3 Comments

Eurostar Is Testing To Amsterdam

This article in Global Rail News is entitled Velaro Under Test In The Netherlands. This is the first two paragraphs.

NS and Siemens have completed the first tests of Eurostar’s new e320 train on the Dutch rail network.

Eurostar plans to launch direct services between Amsterdam Central and London St Pancras in 2017 and has now begun testing its new fleet on the Dutch HSL-Zuid.

It would appear that St. Pancras to Amsterdam will take about four hours.

I suspect they still got a few details to sort out.

  • Immigration control, as the UK is not in Schengen.
  • The Dutch signalling system.
  • The unusual Dutch train voltage of 1,500 VDC, as opposed to the British, French and HSL-Zuid of 25 KVAC.
  • To complicate matters the Germans use 15 KVAC and drive on the right.

It’s a pity for many, that HSL-Zuid was built deliberately to avoid calling at Den Haag.

May 4, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

So Near And Yet So Far!

This Google Map shows the geographical relationship between Northfleet station on the North Kent Line and Ebbsfleet International station on the High Speed 1 Rail Link.

Northfleet And Ebbsfleet International Stations

Northfleet And Ebbsfleet International Stations

Note Swancombe station at the top left, which is also on the North Kent Line.

In my view the designers of High Speed 1, lost sight of the ball here, just as they did at Stratford International station.

To many people and especially to a lot of rail commentators and builders, connectivity is very important, as it often gives passengers the ability to do difficult journeys easily with a simple cross-platform interchange.

If you look at the positions of Northfleet and Ebbsfleet International stations, as the crow flies it is about four hundred metres. But to walk it along the A226, Thames Way and a loop into Ebbsfleet International station took me thirty-eight minutes.

I took these pictures as I walked.

I am left with the following conclusions.

  • Northfleet station appears to only stand up because the woodworm keep holding hands.
  • Northfleet station is very welcoming to visitors to the town!
  • The current route is a badly-signposted disgrace.
  • I didn’t see any signposts pointing the other way.
  • It would be a nightmare in bad weather.
  • It is a step-free route.

It would not be the most difficult feat of engineering to build a walkway from Northfleet station to the Car Park C on the Northfleet side of Ebbsfleet International station.

Incidentally, the Ebbsfleet International station web site says this about getting to the station by rail.

If you can’t reach us direct then we’re just a 10 minute walk from Northfleet domestic station which is serviced by the North Kent Line.

For my age and health, I can walk reasonably fast, but it took me over three times as long. Did they hire Mo Farah to do the time test?

I think someone measured it on a map as four hundred metres and said that he or she could walk it in ten minutes.

If they did, it is downright incompetence.

I challenge Eurostar to find anybody over sixty-five, who doesn’t have form as an athlete, to walk the signposted route in ten minutes!

If they find someone, who can do it, I’ll give fifty pounds to Railway Children!

December 7, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Any Dutch Station By Eurostar From London

I complained to Eurostar about the lack of this ticket after my last trip to The Hague.

I got this reply.

Good morning,

although we currently don’t offer a ticket to “Any Dutch Station” on our UK website this product is available through our call centre on 0844 848 5848.   Please specify when booking that you don’t require the “Thalys” trains and that you will be using regular “Classic” trains onwards from, and back to, Brussels, and they will be able to booking the ticket for you.

Although this product was withdrawn from our website around the time that the High Speed link was introduced the position regarding the sale of this ticket on our website is under review.  In the meantime, though, please ring our contact centre who are open 0800 to 1900 on Mondays to Fridays and 0900 to 1700 on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.

Not perfect, but it looks like they’re on the case.

October 22, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Back From The Hague

Before I left on Thursday, I wrote Off To The Hague Today and started the post like this.

Is there any other train journey between two capitals in the world, that is more difficult now than it was six or seven years ago?

It certainly doesn’t get any better.

Arriving in Brussels, the hourly train to Antwerp and The Hague left in half an hour, so I thought if I could get a ticket to The Hague, I might go direct.

So I tried a machine. But these only sell tickets to Belgium.

Ticket Office?

The queues were horrendous, so I got on the train to Antwerp as my Any Belgium Ticket would get me there!

At Antwerp, I took half an hour to buy a ticket and after a lunch of nuts and the worst coffee, I’ve ever had, I caught the next train to Den Haag HS, where I changed for Den Haag Laan van Nieuwe Oost Indie.

Express train it is not! On this main InterCity route, some of it has a speed limit of just 100 kph. Even London to Ipswich is a 160 kph line.

Coming back, there were a few delays and it took exactly four hours from the time I got on the InterCity train at Den Haag HS before I was on my on-time Eurostar leaving Brussels. Admittedly, forty-five minutes of so was checking-in and waiting for the Eurostar.

Incidentally, Den Haag to Brussels in 172.9 km. and can be driven in two hours.

London to Birmingham is actually slightly further and Virgin does it around 85 minutes.

If that isn’t a disgrace, I’m a Dutchman!

What wasn’t a disgrace was the food on Eurostar!

I’d forgot to ask for a gluten-free meal, but I was assured the main course was gluten-free. I’m pretty certain it was and it was also delicious.

So at least the last part of the journey went well and we arrived in St. Pancras on time!

Passenger services through the Channel Tunnel opened in 1994, with services to and from St. Pancras starting in November 2007.

The new Class 374 trains to start a service to Amsterdam and Cologne are now sitting in sidings, with services supposed to start at the end of 2016.

Judging by the history of the development of services to places other than London, Brussels and Paris, I suspect that date will slip to somewhere about 2026 or even 2036.

The biggest problem seems to be the multiplicity of different electrical systems between France, Germany and The Netherlands. At least we chose our 25kVAC overhead system is the same as the French and has been since at least the 1960s.

I despair, that I’ll ever take a High Speed train direct to Rotterdam and then take a local train to The Hague.

No wonder the EU is such a mess, if the UK, Belgium, France, Germany and The Netherlands can’t agree on something purely technical like a connecting railway.

 

 

October 11, 2015 Posted by | Food, Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

I’m Off To The Hague Today

Is there any other train journey between two capitals in the world, that is more difficult now than it was six or seven years ago?

When I first did this trip, I was able to buy a Eurostar ticket from London to Any Dutch Station, as many visitors to The Netherlands did.

But when Fyra; the high-speed train started, this was not possible any more. I couldn’t even get to the Dutch capital without a second change.

Today, I’ve bought a Eurostar ticket to any Belgian Station and will go to Antwerp for a spot of lunch, before I buy a ticket to Den Haag Laan van Nieuwe Oost Indie, so that I avoid all the hassle of using Dutch local ticketing, which will mean buying an Oyster-style card.

I will then use Shanks’s Pony to get to my final destination.

If that is progress, you can stick it up your backside.

Suppose to go between London and Edinburgh, you had to change trains at Newcastle or Berwick! Even the most rabid of Scottish Independence advocates, would never want a service like that between Scotland and England!

Also, if I was going to most important stations in Switzerland, I can buy one ticket from London.

Surely, this should apply to all major cities in Europe, that are within say five or six hours from London.

Going the other way, I could buy a ticket from say Paris direct to virtually anywhere in the UK.

October 8, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 3 Comments