Why you should cross the English Channel by train, not ferry

by Dave Allan-Petale

What is the best way to get to France from Britain? It’s only a short distance after all. Flying is a great option, especially now we have flights that are cheap as chips and seem to leave every 10 seconds from a bagful of airports. But what if you want to take your own car? There’s not much better than a road trip, so putting the wheels on a car ferry seems to make perfect sense…but does it really?

Crossing the channel took forever

I recently went to France and Belgium with a mate and we paid a king’s ransom to put our car on board a ferry. The journey took five hours. Five hours crossing the ditch from Portsmouth to Caen, ploughing through the water at a snail’s pace. Once we made it to dry land it was simple enough to drive off the ramp and get on with our lives. But it struck me that surely there must be a quicker way.

A highlight of the ferry trip was seeing the Royal Navy base at Portsmouth – you can spot HMS Victory in the background, the famous ship Lord Nelson commanded during the Battle of Trafalgar

It was only on the way back to Britian I realised how wrong it had been to take the car ferry to France. We booked a return passage through the Eurotunnel, which proved to be a much better experience. You drive up to the terminal at Calais and the machines recoignise your number plate from a pre-booked ticket and then waive you through to customs. Brilliant. From there you drive onto a car train, whack on the handbrake and sit tight until you reach Britain.

You emerge in Folkestone and can continue onto the motorway to London or wherever else you want to go in the UK. Job done. We paid £80 for the car train and £180 for the car ferry. The car train took about 50 minutes and the car ferry five hours. A vast difference. Next time I go to Europe with a car I’m driving it onto a train. If anything, that is just way cooler than being stuck on a bobbing ferry.

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