Why Ashford? A question many people asked me when my French wife and I moved there from Sevenoaks nearly five years ago. Whilst at that time my wife was working in Ashford – and about to undertake additional studies and training – it was still a big decision to make (and to some friends and family, an odd decision), given that I spent most of my work time in London.
There was, however, a significant amount of my time spent in Paris for my job and that, coupled with my wife’s family living in or near the French capital, meant it made sense to move to Ashford. And the reason and justification we always came back for moving down here was Ashford International Station and … the Eurostar.
Aside from being geographically closer to Paris, the city I’d spent over seven years living in previously, I now no longer had to take all my suitcases and other associated travel effects up to my office in London on the early morning packed commuter train.
I didn’t then need to return to the office from an afternoon client visit (that could be anywhere in London) and rush across London again in order to make it to St Pancras International for the 7:30pm hard cut-off to get the 8pm Eurostar. I didn’t need to worry about tube delays, rush hour queues, or whether I would be able to get my suitcases up and down Bank underground steps!
Closer to Paris
It meant every other Thursday, and occasionally every Thursday, I could walk ten minutes from my house to the Ashford International check-in gates, which were better managed and much less congested than those of St Pancras International. I would arrive in Paris for my first appointment at 10am, which included allowing time to queue for a Metro ticket.
Whilst I would generally stay overnight, it was sometimes possible to get everything done in one day, get the last Eurostar out of Paris and be back home by 11pm. What’s more, with Ebbsfleet International in operation, despite the last Eurostar not normally stopping at Ashford, I could shuttle back down in 20 minutes on HS1 and again avoid London and the associated unnecessary time and expense.
Paris and Beyond
For my wife, she could enjoy trips to see friends and family (or we could welcome them here) in much the same way. It was quicker to get to Paris than it was to get to Birmingham, for example. In summer, we’d also enjoy direct trains down to Marseille, where we could then join family for the annual Montpellier August holiday.
No need to travel up to Heathrow, or an even further away ‘London’ airport, with all our baggage. Nor any need to be at check-in at least two hours before the flight, and we wouldn’t be separated from carefully pre-weighed suitcases! What’s more, when we booked our tickets suitably in advance, and taking into consideration the cost of getting to and from the airports, it was definitely cheaper to take the train. And it also took about the same travel time overall!
Not just a few Commuters…
Whilst some of my circumstances may not be shared by others, the fact that Ashford had the Eurostar enabled me not to feel the complications of these ‘exceptional circumstances’. And whilst Eurostar may have only lost a few part-time commuters like myself, they also lost a lot of Kent and Sussex tourist traffic as well as Disneyland holidayers, and winter skiers. And there were those who journeyed to other cities such as Lille (in less than one hour), Brussels and other Belgian destinations. How many of those tourists are now happy to trek up to, and in some cases across, London to get the Eurostar?
Right now the spotlight is on green, sustainable travel, which the near 900 passenger capacity of Eurostar epitomises. Also one would think after spending £100 million on a Kent international railway station which opened barely 26 years ago, it seems urgent to make a bit of use out of it!