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The Eurostar Marseille–London stops in Lille for passport checks, because there is no separated Eurostar available at Marseille or its other French stations.

In winter, a special ski train runs between Bourg-St-Maurice and London, including an overnight option departing Bourg-St-Maurice at 22:12, arriving London at 7:16 GMT the next morning. Interpolating the timetable, this train probably passes through Lille at 5:00 or 6:00 CET or so. However, there is no mention of such a stop in the timetable for either the day or the night train from Bourg-St-Maurice.

In the direct Eurostar between Bourg-St-Maurice and London, where are passport checks carried out? Does the UK border police actually travel all the way to the Alps to do checks at Bourg-St-Maurice and Moûtiers, similar to how they do at Marne-la-Vallée station?

(If they do, one wonders why they can't do the same in Marseille, Avignon, and Lyon; I can speculate, but it's a different question.)

  • "Does the UK border police actually travel all the way to the Alps to do checks at Bourg-St-Maurice and Moûtiers, similar to how they do at Marne-la-Vallée station?" They don't at Marne-la-Vallée - instead the Uk checks are done at the UK stations on arrival – Crazydre Nov 28 '17 at 1:16
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On the way to France, the Eurostar ski train (both day and night) has three (official) stops, Moûtiers, Aime-la-Plagne and Bourg-St-Maurice. On the return, it has only two stops, Moûtiers and Bourg-St-Maurice.

At both of these stations, there is a special platform that can be fenced off from the rest of the French rail network. There is also a special waiting room area, which contains security, French "exit" immigration staff, and UK "entry" immigration staff.

On Ski train Saturdays, these facilities are used. The rest of the time, the waiting room is closed off, and the platform fences are opened so they can be used for regular French trains. On Ski train Saturdays, UK immigration officers have to be brought in, extra security staff must be hired to run the security checks, French immigration staff have to be brought in to run the exit checks, security staff have to close all the fences/gates around the train + patrol to make sure no-one sneaks in, and other related border security activities are followed. It's a large amount of work, and isn't cheap either!

In addition, it requires dedicated platforms that can be secured, dedicated areas to hold the security screening and immigration checks.

For the other services, including the recently launched Lyon/Marseille one, there isn't the space or the money or the staff for these special dedicated facilities. As such, they run as domestic French services as fair as Lille, then all the checks are done there.

I believe that Lille is used because it has the size and spare capacity, and is on the high speed line. It'd be an epic faff to get a train from the south of France into Gare du Nord to do the checks there, and it'd be a big detour to head via Brussels. Calais is only a small station, so there isn't really the staff or space to handle a whole train load there.

The upcoming Amsterdam/Rotterdam services will also have their security+immigration done at Lille, rather than Brussels. Eurostar and SNCF have recently funded some upgrades to Lille Europe station, to increase the capacity of the security and immigration checks, along with the waiting area, in part to handle the additional load that these new services generate. At this time, it looks like all the "original" services (such as the Disney train and the Ski train) will retain their special security+immigration checks at their origin stations. Everything else looks to be set for the "Lille Shuffle"

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    Surprising that UK border police are willing to travel all the way to Moûtiers and Bourg-St-Maurice. – gerrit Nov 20 '15 at 10:54
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    @gerrit I believe that Eurostar contributes/covers the cost. I suspect at least some of them opt not to come home for a week, so get free ski holiday transport and don't mind too much! :) – Gagravarr Nov 20 '15 at 11:32
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    One wonders why they can't do checks on the train. They could stop briefly in Lille or Calais to kick out the people who don't meet passport checks. – gerrit Nov 20 '15 at 11:51
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    @gerrit There are three checks required - security, French exit immigration and British entry immigration. When the original plans were being done, they had thought about doing on-train combined immigration checks. The requirements around security were then introduced, and once that was there they decided trying to do immigration on train when security was off-train just didn't make sense. It was also what killed the "north of London eurostar" and the "nightstar" – Gagravarr Nov 20 '15 at 12:50
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    There's a wonderful comment thread about the second attempt to do London sleepers (by a private company, where BR has NightStar) which has lots of information about the security arrangements and what a pain they are businesstraveller.com/discussion/topic/… – Richard Gadsden Jun 21 '16 at 11:42

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