Last updated: 10:51 AM ET, Tue July 19 2016

Rail Travel, Reimagined

Eurostar's new and renovated trains feature a fresh design and upgraded service and amenities

Vacation Agent | Car Rental & Rail | Mimi Kmet

Rail Travel, Reimagined

PHOTO: Each of Eurostar's new gray, blue and yellow trains will accommodate 900 passengers. (photo courtesy Eurostar)

Last November’s launch of new and renovated Eurostar trains marked a new era for the transportation company – and for Rail Europe, the trade distribution channel for European rail products, including Eurostar in the Americas. The high-speed trains, which whisk travelers between Brussels, London and Paris, as well as to other cities in France, were completely reimagined.

Each of the 17 new Siemens e320 trains has 20 percent more capacity than the older e300 trains (accommodating 900 people, compared to 750). But that’s where the differences between them end. The new design by Turin, Italy-based Pininfarina, which also designs Ferrari and Maserati automobiles, was applied to both models.

It’s all about “the experience of travel, not just transportation,” says Alfredo Palma, Pininfarina’s design project manager.

The gray, blue and yellow cars are designed to facilitate the flow of passengers and to enhance riders’ emotional experience with elements that denote movement, says Palma. Corners are rounded rather than square, for example. And walls and counters in public areas are wavy, rather than straight.

All classes of service were redesigned for more comfort, with subtly alternating shades of color along seat rows to create a personal space for each passenger and larger windows to create a roomier feel.

But Standard Premier and Business Premier Classes received additional improvements. Among them is an upgraded food-and-beverage program by Michelin-starred Chef Raymond Blanc. The three-course Business Premier meals, which are included in the fares, feature simple, rustic dishes using seasonal ingredients, says Yann Bayeul, Eurostar International’s catering product and service manager. The company also recently launched an afternoon meal with items like cheese and salads.

In Standard Premier, Eurostar serves lighter meals, which are also included in the fares. And Standard Class passengers can purchase casual fare in the Café Metropole dining car. Additionally, Eurostar accommodates special requests, like vegetarian and gluten-free items.

Business and Standard Premier enhancements also include seats that recline without encroaching on the space of the passengers behind. For passengers with long legs, the seat cushions extend. In addition, all seats in Standard Class now recline.

Among the more practical upgrades in all classes of service are improved lighting, glass doors between coaches that open automatically, tables at seats that can expand without having to remove belongings first, above-seat displays that show which seats are free, and bathrooms with no-touch faucets and dryers.

U.K. and continental plug-in points are now located at every seat in all classes. Seats in Business and Standard Premier Classes also have USB outlets, device holders, mirrors and individual reading lights.

In addition, complimentary WiFi, available via the Eurostar app, is now part of the onboard entertainment, providing access to the latest TV shows and movies. There’s even a live, moving location map and new monitors that provide information like how fast the train is traveling and what coach a passenger is walking through.

At major stations, Business Premier lounges (which also are available to Eurostar’s Carte Blanche frequent travelers) also are undergoing renovations. Upgrades at the Brussels lounge are completed, and revamped lounges will debut in Paris by year-end and in London next year. The lounges offer comfortable seating, periodicals, and complimentary refreshments, including cocktails made with Toujours 21, Eurostar’s private label gin, which it launched last October for its 21st anniversary.

And in London, the historic St. Pancras International station, which provides Eurostar passengers with connections to the rest of Great Britain, has been restored in recent years with perks like free WiFi, updated public art, and new shops, restaurants and bars.

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Here are three properties you can recommend to clients who book Eurostar’s Business Premier and Standard Premier Classes and are looking for similar service and luxury in their hotel accommodations.

Hotel Amigo, a Rocco Forte hotel in Brussels, is situated in the old city center next to the Grand Place. The property offers 173 guestrooms and suites.

The ultra-modern Shangri-La opened in May 2014 in The Shard, London's tallest building. Each of the 202 rooms has spectacular city views.

A former palace, the Shangri-La Paris was originally built in 1896. Many of the 101 rooms and suites have Eiffel Tower views.


Besides train tickets and rail passes, tours can be booked via Rail Europe.

The Brussels Card includes admission to more than 30 museums — including Bozar-Fine Arts Centre and the Magritte Museum — plus discounts at shops, restaurants and bars. City tours include a chocolate tour and workshop. This summer, clients can take advantage of the 100 Masters promotion (, which highlights the permanent collections of 110 museums.

The Paris Pass features a hop-on, hop-off tour, use of public transportation, and admission to more than 60 attractions and museums with fast-track entry (pass holders can skip the line). The pass also includes experiences like wine tasting at ô Chateau Wine Bar Louvre paired with a visit to Les Caves du Louvre, an interactive winemaking museum.

The London Pass Including Hop-On Hop-Off Tour also offers admission to more than 60 attractions, including the Tower of London and Windsor Castle, plus a Thames River Cruise with fast-track entry.

The 2 for 1 Cultural Offer provides Eurostar passengers with two-for-one access to selected museums and galleries in four cities. Clients need only present their used rail tickets at participating venues, including London’s Tate Modern, Paris’ Jeu de Paume and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium.


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Vacation Agent Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the July 2016 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.