Thinking of heading to Europe this summer? The Eurostar is a popular way of travelling from the UK to major cities across the continent, but you might be wondering how accessible it is for disabled passengers. To help, we’ve compiled an accessibility guide for travelling on the Eurostar.
As a disabled passenger, travelling via air can sometimes be stressful. Although there are lots of things you can do to make flying more accessible, you might also want to consider some of the other ways you can travel – by driving in your Scheme vehicle, or by taking the Eurostar train.
There are many holiday destinations bursting with culture and good food just a train journey away from the UK. The Eurostar directly connects to France, Belgium and the Netherlands, with stops in popular cities such as Paris and Amsterdam.
Where do you begin with organising a trip though? In this step-by-step guide, we’ll offer information and advice on how to navigate travelling to Europe by Eurostar. There is lots of support available to help you travel smoothly and enjoyably, whatever your mobility needs.
Planning your journey and booking your tickets
Every journey begins with thinking about where you want to go. There are multiple direct stops across the Eurostar route, but you can also take advantage of Europe’s train network to travel further. Once you’ve decided on your destination, it’s time to book your tickets.
The Eurostar trains have four wheelchair spaces split across Standard Premier and Business Premier. No matter where you sit, wheelchair users only pay for standard class. One discounted companion ticket is also available.
On the Eurostar website, you can easily book tickets for direct routes to cities such as Paris and Amsterdam. Alternatively, you can call +44 (0) 330 818 0718 to book. The dimensions of wheelchairs and mobility scooters must be between 70cm wide and 120cm long to fit in the allocated spaces.
You can travel with a companion for a reduced fare if you have a visual or hearing impairment. You choose where you want to sit, paying the usual fare, and then your companion can travel for a discounted price. Again, you can call Eurostar at +44 (0) 330 818 0718 or use their contact form on their website to book tickets.
How to book assistance
Special assistance is available at all of the Eurostar train stations, for people with a wide range of disabilities (as well as pregnant and elderly people). Eurostar recommends booking your assistance at least 48 hours ahead of time. Some of their stations don’t require you to book, but being prepared is the best way to guarantee a smooth journey.
There are several ways you can book your assistance, including using the contact form on the Eurostar website (selecting ‘Special Assistance’) or calling on +44 (0)3432 186 186.
If you’ve booked assistance, try to arrive at the meeting point at least 75 minutes before your train’s departure time. Meeting points are different for each station, and most are at check-in desks. You can find more information in this helpful PDF about exactly where you need to go.
What is Eurostar Assist?
At St Pancras International, Paris Gare du Nord and Brussels-Midi/Zuid there is an enhanced service called Eurostar Assist. This is an enhanced service you can book if you’re travelling between any of these three stations.
On top of the standard assistance you get at any Eurostar station, the Eurostar Assist team can also help with carrying your luggage, as long as each bag is under 15kg. Be sure to weigh yours before you travel.
They’ll take you through security, passport control, and to the departure lounge where disabled passengers are given priority seating. When your train is ready to board, the team will assist you to your seat. At your destination, they’ll meet you at the train doors and guide you through to arrivals.
Eurostar Assist can help a wide range of people including those with reduced mobility, deaf or hearing-impaired travellers, those with a mental health condition or learning disability and blind or visually impaired people.
Good to know: there is still assistance available at stations without Eurostar Assist, you just need to check what help is available at your station. Some stations do not provide assistance with luggage, for example. You can still book this assistance via the usual contact methods with Eurostar.
Extra accessibility information to consider
If you’d prefer to travel when there are fewer people around, Eurostar recommends travelling after 2pm on Monday to Thursday, or before 2pm on Sundays.
Each of their stations has accessible toilets, disabled car parking spaces, wheelchairs available to use, ramps for train access, places to buy food and full-time staff availability.
Accessibility on the train
Wheelchair users are seated in either Standard Premier or Business Premier where they will be served meals and drinks. Bringing your own food is welcome, though! You’ll be seated by a window with extra space where you can stay in your wheelchair and be seated with your companion. There is also a wheelchair-accessible toilet nearby.
In standard class, there are two buffet coaches where you can buy meals, snacks, and drinks. You can ask the train manager for assistance if you are unable to get there on your own. The onboard team is always available and happy to help.
Arrival and beyond
If you’ve booked Eurostar Assist, the team will meet you at the train doors to take you through arrivals. They’ll help with all sections of the Eurostar journey.
If you’re just booking standard special assistance, you should check with the station you’re arriving at to make sure that there is support in place for you.
If you’re catching a connecting train, you’ll need to organise assistance for this separately. There’s information in this handy PDF on who to call and how to book assistance. Most train operators require 48 hours’ notice, so make sure you book in advance.
Enjoy your travel experience
It can feel like there’s a lot of planning to do, but the more prepared you are before your trip, the smoother your experience will be. And with the assistance services that Eurostar provide, they can help you have a great start to your European holiday!
Interested in joining the Scheme?
The Motability Scheme offers an all-inclusive package. If you are in receipt of a qualifying mobility allowance you can use it to lease a car, scooter, powered wheelchair or Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV).
As well as having access to a brand-new vehicle of your choice, your Scheme lease also provides a worry-free package – which means that breakdown cover, servicing and maintenance are all included in the price you pay.