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Bits: Kent to get direct trains to Luton Airport, double Eurostar points to Netherlands, passport fees up

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News in brief:

Kent to get direct trains to Luton Airport Parkway from May

The new and much delayed changes to the Thameslink rail network in London are about to begin in earnest.   This official website outlines what will be happening and when.

One lesser known change is that, from May, there will be a direct train service from parts of Kent to Luton Airport Parkway.

Running every 30 minutes, seven days per week, the service will run from Rainham to Luton town centre.

The Kent and outer London stations to be served are:

Rainham, Gillingham, Chatham, Rochester, Strood, Higham, Gravesend, Northfleet, Swanscombe, Greenhithe, Stone Crossing, Dartford, Slade Green, Abbey Wood, Plumstead, Woolwich Arsenal, Charlton, Westcombe Park, Maze Hill, Greenwich, Deptford and then on to London Bridge and through to Luton

Get double Club Eurostar points to the Netherlands

Eurostar services to Rotterdam and Amsterdam begin on 4th April.  This HFP article explains how it will work including the annoying change of train required on the return journey.

Club Eurostar is offering double points on all trips to the Netherlands booked between 20th March and 13th April for travel by 31st August.  This is only valid on Eurostar trains and not any connecting Thalys services.  The bonus points do not count towards your status level.

How to earn Club Eurostar points via UK credit cards

As a reminder, Club Eurostar does not have its own UK credit card.  However, you can earn Club Eurostar points by converting Membership Rewards points earned from selected UK American Express cards.  These are:

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold – 10,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus

The Platinum Card from American Express – 30,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus

American Express Rewards credit card – up to 5,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus

Membership Rewards points convert at 15:1 into Club Eurostar points.  The cards above all earn 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on your card, so you earn the equivalent of 1 Club Eurostar point for every £15 you spend.

American Express Platinum also comes with a great Eurostar benefit – lounge access!  You can enter any Eurostar lounge, irrespective of your ticket type, simply by showing The Platinum Card at the desk.  No guests are allowed but you can get entry for your partner by issuing them with a FREE supplementary Amex Platinum card on your account.

Club Eurostar bonus points

Passport fees to rise sharply next week

If you have a passport to renew, you should get the application underway this weekend.

From 27th March, an adult passport goes up from £72.50 to either £75.50 for online applications or £85 for postal applications.  The fee for children goes up from £46 to £49 online or £58.50 via the post.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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  1. Just to pick up additional Pedantry Points (I’m going for lifetime gold): Luton is a town not a city.

    • I did ponder that one at the time 🙂

    • Yes, it does go to *Luton* (city/town/conurbation centre) but also perhaps more relevantly for this article, *Luton Airport Parkway* is the previous stop.

      From there a short bus journey (from 2020 it’ll be a direct light rail link) will take you to the terminal.

      Be sure to select Luton Airport (LUA) as your departure station to get your Shuttle Bus transfer fare included. If your ticket is to Luton Airport Parkway (LTN) they’ll sting you for a cash fare.

      • The_real_a says:

        For manchester it is often cheapet NOT to add the connection to the airport and pay the £3.xx on the day price. Have no idea if that same is true for Luton but worth checking.

        • Lady London says:

          Defo ensuring to select Luton Airport and NOT Luton Parkway to start or end your train journey if you have a railcars so far as I can tell.

          B***** cheeky of Luton Council, who owns the airport, that they started charging for the bus from Luton Parkway in the past couple of years or so. There was talk of why was the rail line stopped at Luton Parkway in the first place rather than running the extra mile and a half or whatever short distance it is, to the airport.

        • RussellH says:

          FWIW, that is not my experience travelling to MAN (airport), from Penrith or Carnforth usually,

          May well be the case travelling from, say, Leeds or York???

        • The_real_a says:

          RusselH – interesting. yes im coming from the east. Somtimes £20 cheaper NOT to add it as some super-saver tickets seem not available with the connection.

        • “There was talk of why was the rail line stopped at Luton Parkway in the first place”

          The airport parkway station was just a station added to the existing bedford – london line in 1999. If they had wanted to have the train station at the airport itself it would have cost much more to build a new rail line there rather than add a station to the existing line a mile from the airport. The railway line was built in 1868 and the airport did not exist then (neither did airplanes).

        • Lady London says:

          Yes. Funds apparently allowed the station but Luton wasn’t paying for the line extension. Presumably if they’re building the rail line through to the airport for opening in 2020 (which I had missed seeing) funds have now been made available

        • Manchester – did you mean Birmingham?

        • Aeronaut says:

          @Lady London
          “B***** cheeky of Luton Council, who owns the airport, that they started charging for the bus from Luton Parkway in the past couple of years or so.”

          The charge for the shuttle bus has existed since 2008, though as others have said if you get a rail ticket to the destination of ‘Luton Airport’ itself (rather than ‘Luton Airport Parkway’) you are covered for the shuttle bus.

          Also the shuttle bus has been run by the train company responsible for the Thameslink service for years (it is a franchise obligation). I can’t speak as to the logic of why responsibility for the shuttle bus passed from the airport to the railway.

    • Technically the first two stations are Rainham (Kent) and Gillingham (Kent).

  2. insider says:

    it would be useful to add the times of the journey from Rainham to Luton

  3. Baboons says:

    Anyone thinking of getting their passport do e now but worried about dekays, I applied for my son’s – his first adult one – online on Tuesday and posted his old passport off. They marked as received in Thursday morning, approved Thursday night and printed Friday night. Should have it back by Tuesday latest. Fsstest turnaround I’ve ever had.

  4. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    There are also about half a dozen direct services from Sevenoaks on weekdays. I don’t know whether they are surviving under the new timetable in May though.

  5. If I renew my passport now, will I have to get another one next year when we leave the EU?

  6. Re: Passport fees. Can one apply and pay online now at the lower fee and submit in a few weeks time when Easter travel is completed?

    • I think this might be possible, they don’t start to process the new passport application until they receive the old passport but I’m not aware if they specify how long you have to get it to them.

      • Lady London says:

        Just in case no one else mentioned it, if you have up to 9 months left on your current passport you should apply now as up to that much time can be added from the old passport on top of the 10year passport time when it is issued.

    • +1

    • Chris
      Yes not a problem. If you renew online you have to send the paperwork and old passport in within 90 days.
      So you can start it now to lock into current price, travel over Easter with current passport and then complete your renewal!

  7. Nick_C says:

    Unfortunately the seating on the new Class 700 Thameslink trains is bloody uncomfortable. The seats are hard and narrow. The leg room is terrible. There are no armrests. There are no power points or USB points in standard class. No WiFi. And hardly any space for luggage.

    I was excited about having a direct train from my local station (on the ECML) to Gatwick until I actually sat on one. 100 minutes on one to get to Gatwick? No thanks! I’d rather drive. I pity people who have to sit on these trains every day.

    • Andrew says:

      I agree that they’re incredibly uncomfortable but they do have wifi

      • Lady London says:

        How train carriages are ever built or refurbished without USB points and ideally charging plug points being added -including a few extra for standees – is beyond me. Ditto multimillion projects that rebuild train stations or underground stations that havent included lifts for people with luggage, pushchairs or people with mobility difficulties. Pretty new tiling in stations and horrible thin scratchy seat surfaces yes, but not things people travelling really need like lifts/escalators and USB points.

        • ScotRail has 25-year-old Class 158 trains from Wick to Inverness.
          Free Wifi and powerpoints/USB sockets available throughout the train.
          However, according to industry press, it is the DfT who are specifying what is included on trains. Yay for the privatised, innovative railway!!!

    • +1 The legroom really ****** me off.

  8. ankomonkey says:

    OT: Looking to fly UK-Egypt in Easter 2019. Cash fares in general seem disproportionately high for the distance/flight time. Does anyone have any advice for getting economy fares around the £200 mark, or am I being unrealistic? I did achieve this 11 years ago, but the carriers used have all gone bust, possibly due to offering flights to Egypt too cheaply 😉

    • Lady London says:

      You could take a look at TK. Also LX has done good deals involving IST in the past. Although perhaps not quite as good as only £200. Especially since currently UK Pound is worth much less than it was. So often airline prices translate into needing a higher price in UK Pounds, than a year or two ago.

  9. ChrisC says:

    I’d hardly call the change of trains in Brussels ‘annoying’. It certainly shouldn’t put anyone off getting the train from Amsterdam. Yes a straight through train would be better but don’t let it put people off.

    You get off the Thalys, go down one level (lifts and escalators available)

    Walk 2 minutes (if that) to the Eurostar check-in and clear security etc.

    Much easier than at many airports.

  10. mutley says:

    Why would anyone in their right mind want to fly from Luton? It’s, organised chaos at the best of times, security is a nightmare, and the £3 charge to drop off for 10 mins is a disgrace,

    • Lady London says:

      I flew out of Luton yesterday and I couldnt agree more. My heart sinks about everything to do with the place. It’s a huge opportunity wasted. The airport has a huge catchment area with increasingly wealthy passengers willing to spend good money for flights that are not expanded to by Luton. Luton Council should get someone in like BAA or the company that runs Stansted and watch it expand. Right now every encounter with Luton feels petty and mean and undersized.

      • Lady London says:

        PS I think Stansted is charging now for 10-15min dropoff too. I think I saw signs there recently.

      • ChrisC says:

        You must have missed all the building work going on there then!

        A little research via Mr Google would tell you that the airport is operated by London Luton Airport Operations Ltd (not the council which does own it) which is owned by Aena (51%) and Ardian (49%).

        Aena operates 40+ airports across the world including MAD and BCN. It is the largest airport manager in the world. So it’s not inexperienced.

        Stansted is owned by Manchester Airport Group.

        BAA no longer exists and is now Heathrow Airport Limited.

        • Lady London says:

          Good news @Chris C. I can’t recall ever visiting Luton anytime in the past 30 years when there wasn’t building work going on. Whoever is managing it, I think they could do a better job. There’s a huge opportunity there for Luton to expand if managed right. Right now it’s h*** on wheels to fly out of most of the time.

          I do admit though that the main terminal area at Stansted is rivalling Luton for meanness of non-retail space available to passengers to simply sit.

    • Brian W says:

      Because they live in Luton?

      • Nick_C says:

        Even if you live in Luton, getting in and out of the airport and dropping people off is a nightmare. Can take 20 minutes.

        Luton is my nearest airport, 18 miles away, but I prefer LHR, STN, or even LGW.

    • The_real_a says:

      Totally agree the security is third world. Expect an hours wait. Awful.

    • Callum says:

      I fly from Luton when the flights are cheaper (the whole point of the airport isn’t it?). Security lines don’t bother me but I guess I’ve been luckier than you!

  11. RussellH says:

    As long as Eurostar have to keep the Schengen-phobes reasonably happy, I think that running the train from Amsterdam to Bruxelles as one service and then chucking everyone off, then re-loading with a completely different passenger load as a completely different service actually makes far more sense than what they have to on the Avignon service, which is tip everyone out at Lille Europe and put the whole trainload through immigration, which, from what I have heard is a nightmare.

    Were I the boss of Eurostar I would be strongly tempted to advertise a though London-Bruxelles-RotterdamAmsterdam service, but make it clear that no through return service would be possible because ‘our’ government refused to permit it. I am not convinced that the necessary facilities in the Netherlands will ever get completed – they must cost the Dutch a fortune in restrictions to the operation of their busiest rail stations.

    • Callum says:

      It’s probably cost prohibitive, but it would be good if they could do immigration on the train itself. Many foreign countries do that and I’m sure Ive had it done that way in Europe in the past too.

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