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Is there a cheaper/slower alternative to Eurostar between Lille and London?

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You can get a coach. Look at www.eurolines.com. –  Jeremy Miles Mar 6 at 0:40
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Eurostar prices vary depending on how popular the train is, so there can be a huge difference between an unpopular train booked 3 months out and a popular one for today! –  Gagravarr Mar 6 at 4:44

3 Answers 3

up vote 13 down vote accepted

No. To go between France and the UK by train, you need to cross the Channel Tunnel. Only three types of trains cross the Channel tunnel:

  • Eurostar high-speed trains carrying passengers
  • Eurotunnel shuttles carrying vehicles
  • Freight trains

The Tunnel will soon open to competition, but the other competitors are likely to be high-speed trains heading to other locations, with similar prices.

I think the cheapest way of crossing the tunnel is with a bicycle, if you have one. It may not be as cheap if you need to rent a bicycle or to buy one in Lille and sell it off in London or if you factor in the expenses along the way.

If you book a little in advance, a bus is likely to be cheaper overall. At least Eurolines and Idbus. The journey time is about 6 hours, as opposed to 1½ hours by train.

You can also investigate ferry crossings. Since the train is faster and more comfortable, ferries can but compete on price.

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So by definition, those Eurotunnel shuttles ARE another train to Eurostar, no? They take cars+passengers together. –  Mark Mayo Mar 6 at 2:43
    
@MarkMayo Technically true but if you are asking about trains, it's because you don't want/can't travel by car, no? The shuttle is not a train from Lille to London, it's an alternative to the ferry if you are otherwise traveling by car. –  Relaxed Mar 6 at 7:35
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@MarkMayo Eurotunnel shuttles don't take foot passengers. Technically, I don't know if you can smuggle in by pretending to be a cyclist, but I don't think so. So you need a vehicle not only to go from Lille to Coquelles and Folkestone to London, but also to take that vehicle with you in the train. –  Gilles Mar 6 at 9:50
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So one can cross with a bicycle, but not without one? That's funny. –  gerrit Mar 6 at 15:04

You can use a combination of "classical" trains and ferry.

  • Take a local train from Lille to Calais.
  • Walk or take a taxi to the ferry terminal.
  • Cross the channel by ferry to Dover.
  • Take a bus from the ferry terminal to the train station.
  • Take a train to London (plenty of options).

A detailed description with up-to date information is available here: http://www.seat61.com/London-Paris-ferry.htm

This option is only cheaper if you book on shorter notice. If the Eurostar is booked in advance it will be cheaper.

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If you have a vehicle, you can use the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle.

enter image description here

(onboard, source)

Passenger vehicles are carried in a car shuttle train, made up of closed wagons. You can get out and walk along inside, and there are bathrooms, but otherwise it's fairly basic.

Prices start at £23 each way

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Is this really cheaper than the ordinary passenger Eurostar? I'd expect transporting a vehicle to be much more expensive. –  Nate Eldredge Mar 6 at 2:35
    
@NateEldredge prices start at 23 quid per car, according to their site, so depending on the day, and time, yeah, it can be. I'll update the answer tho, thanks. –  Mark Mayo Mar 6 at 2:41
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Nate, note also that Le Shuttle is a much shorter journey - Ashford to Calais, about 20 minutes - whereas the normal Eurostar is from London St. Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord / Lille / Brussels, which is usually north of two hours. –  MadHatter Mar 6 at 6:12
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@MadHatter Eurostar London-Brussels is under 2 hours, London-Lille is normally 1:20, and Ashford-Lille is sub 1 hour! It's only the London-Paris ones which are over 2 hours –  Gagravarr Mar 6 at 6:52
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Fair point, Gagravarr. I sought only to clarify that it wasn't entirely surprising that a short-hop vehicle passage through the tunnel might be as cheap as, or cheaper than, a (much) longer end-to-end passenger journey. –  MadHatter Mar 6 at 6:53

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