Discover your dream Career
For Recruiters

COMMENT: Bankers commuting to Paris? The Eurostar is already a misery

As banks begin moving staff to Paris because of a Brexit which may or may not happen, I know more and more people who are planning to commute between the French capital and London. - Maybe not during the week, but at least at the weekends and maybe midweek too.

My advice to you is: don't do it.

I have been a Carte Blanche member of Eurostar for as long as the card has existed. For those of you who don’t go to France by train this is the the Eurostar equivalent of the top 'Frequent Flyer' tier. Yes, there is an even more exclusive “elite” secret Tier, but this is invitation-only and as far as I know it doesn’t provide you with many more perks than the Carte Blanche itself.

With my Carte Blanche I get access to lounges in London and Paris and can invite friends and family. There are free drinks, nibbles, magazines and newspapers; it's all very similar to what you would get in a large airport lounge.

The Eurostar has its plus points. When it moved from London's old Waterloo terminal to the brand new station at St Pancras International lounges got upgraded with cocktail bars (I’m being serious) marble bathrooms (in Paris), and more diverse nibbles.

 When you're a regular Eurostar commuter, however, all of this is peripheral. Year after year, my experience has been that the service is gradually going down. Yes, the lounges got nicer, but the time you can spend in them has been decreasing fast. More and more time needs to be devoted just to getting on the next train, and it's only going to get worse. Already, security lines are getting longer and slower as Brexit is being “pre-tested”.

If you've travelled recently, you'll also know that the French customs officers (once famous for sipping drinks in the bars) have started a “greve du zele” (a paradoxical term which means going on strike by being extra zealous). In other words they are just doing their job very thoroughly to show everybody (travellers, and operating the travel companies) that a hard Brexit would bring your journey back to the Stone Age.

This means that bankers and businessmen alike who are already working between London and Paris now have to forego the perks in the lounges and spend hours negotiating impossible security lines.

But that’s not all.

Over the last 5 or so years Eurostar retired its old comfy Alstom trains to “upgrade” them with swanky Siemens ones. I can only Siemens' strong point was its cost. Because if you ask me the “new” trains are anything but comfortable. Ten to 15 minutes might be ok, but when you sit in them for almost 3 hours (my all time record is close to 8 hours, due to “unforeseen circumstances”) you will lose all sensation in your buttocks. At the very beginning of the Siemens trains, Eurostar received so many complaints from its business travellers that it started giving them extra “pillows.” There's also the lighting, which resembles a supermarket. The only upside is the Wi-fi (if and when it works). So you can tweet you discontent and work when you're onboard. - You'll need to, after the hours of your life wasted queuing at the station.

Amit Itelmon is the pseudonym of a senior banker who travels between Paris and London

AUTHORAmit Itelmon Insider Comment
  • Je
    29 March 2019

    "Bankers and businessmen"? How about businesswomen?

Sign up to Morning Coffee!

Coffee mug

The essential daily roundup of news and analysis read by everyone from senior bankers and traders to new recruits.

Boost your career

Find thousands of job opportunities by signing up to eFinancialCareers today.
Recommended Articles
Latest Jobs

Sign up to Morning Coffee!

Coffee mug

The essential daily roundup of news and analysis read by everyone from senior bankers and traders to new recruits.