Orient Express: Historic train service scraps UK section after 41 years due to Brexit

An employee hers a passenger disembark from the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express at Istanbul Station.
An employee hers a passenger disembark from the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express at Istanbul Station. Copyright Yasin AKGUL / AFP
Copyright Yasin AKGUL / AFP
By Euronews Travel
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The company that offers the service says there is no way to avoid delays at the border.


The UK stretch of the Orient Express is being scrapped due to Brexit border controls.

For 41 years, passengers have been able to board at London’s Victoria Station and travel in style to the port of Folkestone. From there they got on coaches to cross the Channel, arriving to meet another train in Calais and continue their journey.

But from 2024 Belmond, the company that operates the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE), is dropping this London to Folkestone stretch of the journey as crossing the border to Calais has become too difficult.

“We want to avoid any risk of travel disruption for our guests - delays and missing train connections - and provide the highest level of service, as seamless and relaxed as possible,” a spokesperson told UK newspaper The Observer.

Lengthy delays at Dover spark concern

In April, Easter travellers faced delays of up to 14 hours at the Port of Dover which the port authority blamed on “lengthy French border processes and sheer volume.”

Coach passengers were particularly affected by the disruption. New regulations mean they have to disembark coaches to have their passports checked before crossing the Channel.

Container lorries and holiday traffic queue at the Port of Dover on the south-east coast of England on April 7, 2023.BEN STANSALL/AFP

UK politicians downplayed fears that the delays were down to Brexit and said that queues like this are unlikely to become a regular occurrence. Others believe that reduced passenger numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic have masked the border problem until now.

Could border queues at Calais get worse?

Belmond says there is no way to avoid the delays which create an unacceptable risk for the company.

And they fear the problem could soon get worse as travellers will be required to undergo biometric checks once the EU’s new Entry/Exit System is rolled out. Most people will have to provide fingerprint and facial biometric data when they cross the border from November 2023 under the new system.

The EU and UK are also looking to introduce pre-travel authorisation schemes that are similar to the US Esta scheme. They will require you to pay a fee and provide additional information like criminal convictions and education.

Instead of catching the Orient Express, passengers will now have to book a Eurostar service from St Pancras station to meet up with the VSOE in Paris.

The service from London has been running since 1982, whisking passengers away to Europe’s most vibrant cultural hubs. The train’s combination of sleeping, dining and bar carriages accommodates travellers as they journey through Paris to Milan and then on to Venice.

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