Eurotunnel Le Shuttle – the slickest Channel crossing

12th January 2015, by Chris Gill

Loading and unloading delays are minimal

Loading and unloading delays are minimal

With our first serious trips of the season a few days away, it’s time to be getting organised. The editorial VW has its winter tyres installed, the French autoroute payment account is updated. Now to sort the crossings. As ever, we’ll be using the fast and painless car-carrying train through the Channel tunnel, aka Eurotunnel Le Shuttle.

The terminal at Folkestone is very straightforward to reach. Junction 11A of the M20 takes you directly to the check-in gates. We’re aiming to get the 0850 departure, so we’ll be leaving Southampton at 0530 and plan to arrive in Samoëns (in Flaine’s Grand Massif) about 13.5 hours laters, 2000 French time.

Check-in deadline is half an hour before departure. The check-in system recognizes your number plate if you have registered the number (you don’t have to) and without human intervention prints your boarding pass. Next, a quick visit to the shops in the terminal to pick up the hi-viz jacket and other stuff you’ve forgotten, and lay in supplies for the journey – there is no catering on the trains. The it’s into the marshalling yard until you’re called forward to drive on to the train.

If you’re near the front of the queue, once on the train you drive almost the whole length of it before parking – and that will mean a quick exit at the other end. Within minutes you’re gliding into the tunnel. If you think you might want a quick nap during the crossing, you’ll probably appreciate earplugs – the environment is quite noisy, and you are told to open the car windows (presumably because of variations in air pressure through the tunnel).

If all goes well, you can expect to be on the autoroute south of Calais 75 minutes after arrival at Folkestone.

You can book Le Shuttle up to nine months ahead. At the other extreme, you can turn up and buy a ticket on the spot, but of course you may find there is no space and you are likely to pay more than if you book ahead.

And what does it cost? There are very attractive fares for short stays, but for skiers the main ticket type of interest is the standard single/long-stay return, which is advertised “from £73” per car per crossing – ie £146 per return trip. But fares vary hugely according to the popularity of different services – on one day I looked at, fares ranged up to £163 for the outward crossing. But there are also plenty of crossings to be had in the ski season (usually early or late in the day) at or about the minimum. If you want a flexible ticket that permits you to turn up any time, you pay a hefty premium.

The Shuttle website is here.

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