Eurostar Cancels Ski Train for Next Winter
8th July 2020 | James Cove, PlanetSKI editor
Last modified on July 27th, 2020
The restrictions imposed by Covid-19 mean the trains are cancelled for next winter. Some had thought it might be a safer way to travel amid restrictions.
The service runs from London to Bourg St Maurice in the French Alps, giving access to some of the main ski resorts in France.
The company says it has been forced to take the decision due to coronavirus.
The Ski Train to the French Alps has been running since 1997.
Eurostar says it is looking at its whole schedule and needs to concentrate on routes with high demand.
It has apologised to all its past skiing and snowboarding customers.
We understand the company thinks social distancing measures on long journeys would be very challenging, plus all the cleaning necessary.
People would also have to wear masks for 7 or 8 hours and this would not be lead to a comfortable journey.
“As we restart our service, we are focusing our timetable on our routes between capital cities, which have the highest demand from customers at the moment and shorter journey times. We have therefore decided we will not be running our ski service in the 2020/21 winter season,” said a Eurostar spokesman to PlanetSKI.
“We always work to provide a comfortable experience on board for our travellers, and whilst our services operate with restrictions on food service, the compulsory wearing of masks, and significantly increased hygiene measures and high-frequency cleaning, these standards are more challenging to maintain on long distance routes.”
Eurostar usually runs direct day trains to the French Alps on Saturdays between December-April as well as direct night trains on Fridays from January-April.
It had been thought train travel might be a safer option for people to get to the Alps if they did not want to fly.
“This is a short-sighted decision by Eurostar that looks like it has been made by civil servants with no vision,” said Xavier Schouller from the French specialist ski holiday company, Peak Retreats, to PlanetSKI.
“With many skiers potentially nervous about flying again the Ski Train would have been the perfect opportunity to leverage this growing demand for what would have been an ideal alternative.
“Demand for ski holidays is picking-up strongly after a difficult few months experienced by the wider travel industry and all they needed was to wait a little to see that demand materialise rather than just look at their order book as it is today.
“Let’s hope their review this decision soon. For our part we have already seen many clients switching from flying to self-drive.”
Reaction from our readers has been swift.
“This is extremely disappointing news,” Rob Rees.
“Nooooooo,” Briony Key
“Excellent service – until you get to the French end stations, that is,” Sarah Chapman.
“That is a real loss – excellent service and value,” Keith Perry
“Looks like the only isolated option is to drive then,” Oliver Schofield.
“This is a tragic decision by Eurostar to cancel a service that is simply magical, unique. There’s no equivalent way of getting from the UK to the Alps as directly,” said Daniel Elkan from the website, Snowcarbon, that specialises on train travel to ski resorts.
“Even if Eurostar was unable to cater due to covid restrictions, I’m sure there would be plenty of skiers who would bring their own food on board, which one could always do anyway.
“There are always solutions to challenges — but it seems that Eurostar has taken this one without consulting anyone in the ski or travel industry.
“There is so much love for this ski train service, both by skiers and by the resorts that it serves.
“The ski train is often faster than the journey by air, more comfortable, more scenic, more social – and so much greener.
“Now thousands of skiers will be looking at alternative indirect options – but the fear is that many will inevitably be forced to scramble for early morning flights and the conveyor belt of tedium that takes them through airport queues, cramped flights and long, traffic-choked transfers; or otherwise, long drives to the Alps.”
Daniel has launched a campaign – Save The Ski Train.
However there is still the option to go to the French Alps by train via Paris.
The Eurostar from London/Ashford will continue to go to Paris and then it is possible simply to take the TGV to the same destinations as the ski train plus many more.
Normally tickets for the Eurostar ski train go on sale in mid-July.
For indirect rail journeys, some (to Austria) go on sale over the summer and some (to France, Switzerland and Italy) usually go on sale in October.
Here at PlanetSKI we took the train to the Tirol in the Austrian Alps last winter by taking the Eurostar to Amsterdam and then changing, All aboard the Alpen Express to Austria
Eurostar emailed voucher-holders, who had ski trains cancelled in March or April, for example, due to the corona pandemic, with the following message:
“We’re writing to let you know that we unfortunately won’t be running our ski trains during the 2020-21 winter season. We’re sorry to get in touch with such disappointing news.
“This is a decision we’ve made with a great deal of sadness. It’s been an absolute pleasure to take thousands of travellers direct from St Pancras to the Alps over the years. But in the wake of the coronavirus and a challenging travel market, we’ve had to make some changes to our services, focusing on our main routes with the highest demand.
“We appreciate that this news comes at a time when you might’ve been considering using your eVouchers to book another trip on this route. You can still use your eVouchers to travel on any of our other routes instead, including our direct trains to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Disneyland® Paris. Head over to eurostar.com if you need a little destination inspiration.
“We hope you’ll accept our apologies and understand our reasons for making this decision.”
What Eurostar failed to tell voucher holders is that they are eligible for a monetary refund if they wish.
Daniel Elkan at Snowcarbon contacted Eurostar on this point:
His question to Eurostar:
“Am I correct that a skier who wants a monetary refund instead, can request one, in accordance with European passenger law? I’m sure you are aware, but for reference: Regulation (EC) No 1371/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2007 on Rail Passengers’ Rights and Obligations (“PRR”).
“Those that had accepted vouchers from last season’s cancellations, with the expectation that they could use them next year, can of course contact us for a refund.
“We were not able to put a link because this is not a process which can handled automatically because these customers have already accepted and arranged for their previous compensation to be issued as a Voucher (rather than requesting a refund when their train was cancelled).
“It is a fraud protection measure to ensure that travellers aren’t able to request both a voucher and refund from a single booking.
“As always our customer team are very happy to deal with individual requests and we would encourage customers to contact us using the form on our website.”