As high-speed rail increasingly becomes a true alternative to flying for the business traveller, part of the competitive equation is a business lounge.
On a recent visit to London Australian Business Traveller checked out Eurostar’s Business Premier Lounge at St Pancras International Station, which is the London end of the dedicated Eurostar High Speed 1 line between the UK, Paris and Brussels.
Location & impressions
The Business Premier Lounge is tucked away in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it corner of St Pancras International Station: head through the premium security lane and passport control desk, then turn right. Even the welcome desk and entrance to the lounge aren't glaringly obvious.
The lounge itself is a long and relatively narrow split-level affair with just about everything you’d want to while away the time waiting for your train.
Add a bunch of business travellers and things can fill up pretty quickly.
Not that you’ll have long to wait in the lounge. Eurostar services from London generally depart every half hour in peak times and on average each hour outside that.
And with business class travellers and Eurostar Carte Blanche members able to check in as late as 10 minutes before departure (and a meagre 30 minutes for everyone else), plus far less arduous security than airports, the lounge is more for comfortably cooling your heels than killing the hours you’d have to spare at an airport.
The lower and upper levels of the Business Premier lounge are pretty much identical in their facilities – including food and drink, magazines and newspapers plus plenty of comfortable chairs, and tall tables adjacent to the bar and drinks area.
Upstairs tends to be quieter because very short-stay travellers stay on the ground level where they can easily zip out to the trains.
(Oh, and upstairs also has these decidedly funky and seemingly not-often-used chairs right down the end.)
Lounge entry is included in all Eurostar Business Premier class fares, and it’s one of the key differentiators between Business Premier and Standard Premier (in airline terms, think ‘business class’ vs ‘premium economy’).
Regular business travellers can also gain lounge access when they hit the Carte Blanche tier of the Eurostar Frequent Traveller program.
However, lounge access is also a little-known perk of holding an American Express Platinum or Centurion card, so even if you’re travelling in Standard ‘economy’ class you can still rest up in the Business Premier lounge.
Food and drink at Eurostar’s Business Premier lounge is a pretty straightforward and largely self-service affair designed for pre-travel to snacking.
After all, Business Premier passengers get a full meal on board, as well as there being a dining car on the Eurostar train and plenty of grab-and-go eateries at St Pancras Station itself.
You’ll find breakfast cereals in the morning plus fresh sandwiches and rolls, pastries, fruit, biscuits and other nibblies.
There's also an ample variety of soft drinks, wine and beer to wet the whistle.
Comfortable chairs with plentiful AC sockets plus free wi-fi and a fairly quiet environment (if you stay away from the coffee machines) set the scene for some last-minute work before your trip.
(And you can of course continue tapping away on your laptop all through the journey. That’s another point in the train-vs-plane stakes – there’s no 30+ minute period of ‘please switch of all electronic devices’).
Note the inclusion of both UK and European power sockets on the desks.
And if your gadget de jour is running low on de juice, take advantage of the handy recharge station – with lockable doors for each compartment – on the lounge's ground floor.
There are also several meeting areas where you can compare notes with colleagues.
Eurostar's St Pancras business lounge pretty much ticks every box when it comes to a relatively short-stay lounge.
In fact, as trains begin boarding 20 minutes before departure, you may well arrive at the station and head straight to your seat. (That’s one of the ways travelling by Eurostar rates so far down on the hassle-o-meter compared to flying) – so lounge access isn't a must-have for your business trip by train.