Embarrassment For French Government As Disneyland Paris Loses Key Transport Route

The French government has been left with egg on its face after its rail division canceled a key route into the country’s most popular tourist destination, Disneyland Paris, just days after it banned short-haul air flights in favor of train travel.

Disneyland Paris is located around 20 miles to the east of the French capital and is home to one of the country’s busiest railway stations. It doesn’t just connect the resort to the regional RER rail line but also to the local Metro, the national SNCF network and the international Eurostar.

Launched in 1994, the Eurostar is a direct rail service that links France with the United Kingdom and passes through a tunnel under the English Channel. Disneyland Paris was added to its list of destinations in 1996 enabling travelers to reach the resort direct from London in just two hours and 24 minutes.

It is one of the reasons that more guests come from the UK than any other country outside France and 32% of them arrived by train or plane in 2016, the last year that Disneyland Paris released this data.

Despite its importance, Eurostar is putting the brakes on the direct service today with no indication as to whether it will return. This dark spell has been cast by politicians as Eurostar has experienced heavy bottlenecks in stations since the UK left the European Union in 2020. Passengers’ passports now have to be manually stamped when they cross the border which has led to lengthy queues in Eurostar stations. In turn, this has forced Eurostar to reduce the number of its services and thereby carry far fewer passengers.

In January, Eurostar’s chief executive Gwendoline Cazenave revealed to the BBC that its trains between the UK and Paris were carrying 30% fewer passengers than in 2019 and had been cut back to 14 services per day from 18 four years ago. Scrapping the Disneyland Paris service will reduce the pressure on stations but it still may not be the magic touch that is needed.

A rapid Entry/Exit System, known as the EES, is due to replace the manual passport stamps but the technology has been delayed several times and is now due to be introduced at the end of this year. Even that may not be enough to bring back the direct service to Disneyland Paris.

When Cazenave was asked if it will be reinstated in future she said “we’ll see, it depends on the way we can handle the big stations’ issues.” She added the company’s “objective” was to “be this backbone between big cities”, such as London, Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels. “These are the main cities, these are the main markets…we are working for, which is our main role I would say.”

The cancelation of the direct route doesn’t leave UK travelers without any option of reaching Disneyland Paris by rail as they can change in central Paris or Lille to the north of the capital. According to one insider, Disneyland Paris “continue to see strong demand from UK guests who are choosing indirect routes or air travel instead.”

That’s as may be but changing in Paris or Lille is extremely inconvenient, introduces the risk of missing the connection and takes far longer than the direct route. Travelers’ vacation time is precious so they should not be put in a position where they are forced to take a longer route than before if they don’t want to fly or drive.

Disneyland Paris is the innocent party in this mess and it shouldn’t have been put in this position in the first place, especially in light of recent legislative changes in France. Remarkably, the Disneyland Paris Eurostar service is coming to an end just days after France passed a bill to ban short-haul flights on routes where there is a train alternative of two and a half hours or less.

It is particularly remarkable as the French government is the majority shareholder in Eurostar through its SNCF national rail division. So, on the one hand, the French government is forcing travelers to use trains instead of planes and on the other it is forcing them to travel by plane or car to the country’s most popular tourist destination.

Some might argue that to avoid the charge of hypocrisy the French government should bankroll the Eurostar service to Disneyland Paris rather than forcing travelers to fly, drive or even go elsewhere. The government’s lack of action will either see Disneyland Paris or the environment losing out and that is far from a fairytale ending.

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