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Stand by for five-hour UK to Bordeaux rail link

A feasibility study into a direct high-speed London to Bordeaux rail link is under way and set to conclude this spring.

Among other points, it is looking into how to set up an international terminal at Bor­deaux where passports can be checked before passengers board for the UK, with no checks needed at the other end.

Four firms running parts of the rail network which would be involved – High Speed One (HS1), Lisea, Eurotunnel and SNCF Réseau – hope to set up a service taking less than five hours by 2022.

This could allow an operator – possibly Eurostar, but not necessarily – to challenge low-cost airlines.

HS1, which operates the line between Lon­don St Pancras and the Channel Tunnel, is leading the study into changes needed for border and security clearances.

An HS1 spokesman said: “Over one million people travelled by air between London and the Bordeaux region in 2018. Modelling shows that up to 20% would switch to rail for a service of this distance, and so HS1 predicts around 200,000 would use the service each year.

“One in four British expats in France live in the Bordeaux region so this is also an obvious consideration for the line.”

The new route would use the 302km Sud-Europe Atlantique TGV line between Tours and Bordeaux that bypasses Paris.

Trips by rail currently take 5hrs 25mins, with an hour change in Paris. The return takes 6hrs 26mins, due to passport and security controls and a two-hour delay in Paris.

A ceremony to twin Bordeaux Saint Jean and St Pancras was held last autumn as another step towards the new project that could see two to four return journeys a week.

It comes as Eurostar reported that record numbers used its services last year, despite Brexit.

The firm, which is an SNCF subsidiary, plans a merger with Thalys next year and is due to launch new routes, such as London to Germany.

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