Eurostar is an efficient and stress-free way to get to Europe and the service and facilities for disabled passengers are superb.

By Tom Jamison

Our summer holiday to see family in northern France was booked a few months before we were due to travel, when the ticket prices are at their most competitive. Living in Kent we could have gone into London to depart from St Pancras for a wider choice of services to Lille but it would have meant adding unnecessary time and miles to our journey, so we opted instead to get on a train at Rochester and join one of the seven daily Eurostar services that stop at Ebbsfleet International, a station favoured by commuters from the south who drive to the station via the nearby M25 or M2 and go to France daily.

The other advantage with Ebbsfleet is that the station is generally much quieter and it takes less time to get through the airport-style security and passport control. Although, if like me and you’re carrying more medicine and equipment than a pharmaceutical sales rep, you can expect a few questions from the Border Force. Nevertheless, after they peered at and swabbed my nebuliser, they let us all through without hindrance.

Things had been easy and efficient so far, with step-free access from the concourse to the platform but by June, when we travelled, the summer was already shaping up to be one of the hottest in memory and I was slightly dreading baking for an hour and a half in a sweltering carriage. It was a huge relieve to swing the cases on board, followed by the kids and find our seats in an airy, clean and surprisingly cool train.


Disabled passengers benefit from a generous ticketing scheme that allows them to take a companion/carer with them into Standard Premier or Business Premier for the price of a standard class ticket, paying the full rate themselves. This gives them access to pristine and roomier passenger seating (including pre-bookable wheelchair seating) with easier access to equally pristine and roomy disability friendly toilet facilities.

Realising that we’d be arriving at our scheduled stop faster than it would take to do the crossword, a member of staff approached our table with menus for our in-journey meals. Today’s choice was salmon fillet or vegetarian quiche and happily accompanied by a cheeky miniature bottle of wine for my wife and I, with fruit juice for the children. What I hadn’t remembered to do was ask that my meal be spared the parsley, that seems to be the garnish of choice for restaurants across the globe and to which I’m dangerously allergic. As it turned out, a quick check of the ingredients list held by the staff confirmed that the prettily scattered herb on the salmon was of course, harmless, dill. Desert was a tarte tropézienne (that’s a small donut named after the St Tropez region of France).

The train cruised through Kent to the coast and through the Channel Tunnel and after emerging in France, seemed to be in Lille in no time at all. In fact, the whole journey had taken less time than a trip from London to the Midlands would.

The great thing about train travel in general is that all you need to do is take in the scenery. The journey home with Eurostar was equally pleasurable too, having enjoyed a lovely time away – and all without the stress of trying to cut down the size of hand luggage or take on the changeable moods of the English Channel by boat.

Next time we may go all the way to Paris, just for the journey.

Ticketing arrangements

There are special ticket options for your companion or carer.

All of the wheelchair spaces are in Standard Premier and Business Premier, so you’ll enjoy extra space as well as a meal and drinks served en route, all for Eurostar’s lowest-priced Standard class fare.

You can take one person at a discounted companion fare, and they’ll sit with you in Standard Premier or Business Premier on the train.

If you’re travelling with anyone else, they’ll need to book separately and will have to pay a regular fare. Once they’ve booked, they can log in to the ‘manage a booking’ webpage to choose a seat near where you’re sitting.

NB: Disabled people that do not use wheelchairs can also use these arrangements.


Eurostar offer disabled passengers special assistance in stations and onboard trains.

Station assistance

Assistance is available for disabled passengers at both ends of their journey, with the Eurostar Assist team or the local station team. Eurostar recommends travellers book assistance in advance but even if you book a last minute journey for example, Eurostar are committed to doing their best to offer any help they can.

Stations with Eurostar Assist include: St Pancras International, Ebbsfleet International, Ashford International, Paris Gare du Nord, Brussels Midi/Zuid and Calais Fréthun.

If you’re travelling on to another destination in Europe, you’ll need to pre book special assistance for the next part of your journey. At your connecting station, Eurostar staff will take you to the handover point and, from there, you’ll be guided by the local special assistance team.

You need to arrive at the Eurostar Assist meeting point 75 minutes before your train departs. The Eurostar Assist meeting point is always by the Eurostar ticket gates. From there, staff will take you through security and passport control to the departure lounge, where you can take a seat in the priority seating area.

When your train’s ready for boarding, they’ll accompany you to your carriage. When your train arrives at your destination, they’ll meet you at the carriage doors and guide you through to arrivals.

NB: Eurostar assistance is different from local assistance. If you’re travelling from or to a station without Eurostar Assist, luggage assistance is decided by the local team. In France and Belgium, they’ll help with one bag (up to 15kg). In the Netherlands, they won’t help with any of your bags (Details are available from the Eurostar website.)

Booking special assistance

Book your tickets at least 48 hours before departure, call Eurostar on +44(0) 3432 186 186 and select option four, or email: contactus@eurostar.comto tell them about your needs or ask any questions.


The main stations in England, France and Belgium all have disabled parking, full time staff, step-free access from concourse to platform, accessible toilets, wheelchair loan, ramps for accessing trains, automatic doors and customer announcements.

Eurostar wheelchair spaces

If you’re unable to walk 200m without help, you’ll need to travel in your wheelchair in one of the two spaces on board. Both spaces are close to accessible toilets and there’ll be a ramp for you to get on to the train. If you book a wheelchair space, there’s no need to call ahead for assistance at Eurostar stations.

If you can walk 200m and get on and off the train without help, you can travel in a seat and store your foldable wheelchair on the luggage racks. In these instances Eurostar can’t guarantee that there’ll be a ramp to and from the train but you’re welcome to use it if they’ve got one in place.

Mobility scooters

If you want to travel with your mobility scooter, you have to book a wheelchair space. If you want help getting to and from the train, you can book special assistance.

NB: You can only travel with a battery-powered scooter and your scooter must fit in a wheelchair space – 70cm x 100cm. If your scooter doesn’t meet these criteria or you don’t need to travel with it, it’s free to send it to your destination with EuroDespatch. To find out more, email:

Contact Eurostar

You can get in touch with the Eurostar Assist team between 9:00am and 5pm daily. Tel: +44(0) 3432 186 186 (select option four) Email: (with Special Assistance in the subject line) or use the Live Chat option on:

Not so far away…

Using Eurostar means that travellers can arrive at top European destinations from the UK in a matter of hours. Here are a few postcards from our favourites…


Forever a city of romance, Paris is the ideal relaxed city break destination. The city hosts some of the finest artworks ever created, in The Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, in particular.

Afterwards, watch a game of boules or take a relaxing stroll around the Jardin de Tuileries, which became a grand public park after the revolution. No visit to Paris is complete without at least seeing the Eiffel Tower up close. Access for wheelchair users is limited to the first and second levels (via lift) but not to the very top since the final lift is accessed via a staircase (Wheelchair users should use the elevator in the north leg of the tower.) Most attractions and museums offer free (The Louvre) or reduced admission (Eiffel Tower) for disabled visitors.


The historic centre, Vieux Lille, is noted for its 17th century brick town houses, cobbled pedestrian streets and its large central square. It’s clear that it hasn’t lost the influences of nearby Belgium. The fourth largest city in France has been described as its most overlooked, even though it is also claimed that residents living in the region were the happiest in the entire country. Lille certainly has a fun side. Its renowned Lille Braderie mussel festival sees mountains of shells piled up outside restaurants during the event – and a huge flea market take over the city, annually on the first weekend of every September, starting on Saturday at 2pm and ending on the Sunday at 11am – without pause overnight.


Although Brussels is famed for its position as de facto headquarters of the EU, tourists are likely to be far more interested in visiting the extraordinary Grand Place, surrounded by beautiful guildhalls and considered by many to be the most attractive square in Europe. Indeed it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1998.

This comes with its own cobbled surface challenges, but it isn’t an insurmountable issue by any means. Just around the corner, the cheeky Manneken Pis statue, raises both eyebrows and a chuckle.


Tilting gabled buildings create atmospheric narrow lanes that buzz with coffee-shop culture. For a city built around canals, the accessibility is surprisingly good with wide bridges crossing all of the major waterways. Explore the city aboard one of the deluxe Blue Boat Company boats which have a hydraulic lift enabling wheelchair users to board, and cruise through the Amsterdam canals.

Disneyland Paris

Not nearly as long-haul as Florida but still packing as many beloved Disney characters into one park. The park is arranged over five themed areas. There are smiles here for young and old and Disney really know how to look after disabled people.