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Daily dilemmas: Channel tunnel v cross Channel ferry

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Daily dilemmas: Channel tunnel v cross Channel ferry
What's the best way to cross the Channel? Photo: AFP
15:30 CEST+02:00
For people who regularly make the crossing between Britain and France - either second home owners or French residents popping back to visit family and friends - there's a choice to make on crossing the Channel. Over or under?

Ever since the Channel tunnel was completed in 1994 it's provided fierce competition to the cross-Channel ferries and the merits of both can frequently be heard being debated by Brits who live in France or visit regularly.

On the one hand, the ferry offers the full travel experience - the chance to get out of the car, get a coffee, have a stroll around the deck and feel the fresh sea breeze and watch the white cliffs of Dover loom into view.

The tunnel, on the other hand, offers speed - a 30-minute crossing as opposed to 90 minutes on the ferry - and convenience, with flexible tickets available and a crossing every half hour.

And it seems that convenience won out for readers of The Local. On Facebook the tunnel polled 59 percent of the votes.

And over on Twitter the victory was more decisive, with the tunnel taking 66 percent of the vote

 

Vishal Srivastava said: "I've done Paris to London more than 30 times in last two years by Eurostar, bus through Eurotunnel, bus on ferry and flights. Travelling by ferry is always fascinating and exciting though it takes a bit more time - but if you are with family including little kids they always prefer the ferry."

Gina Browning said: "I like the speed of the tunnel but the ferry makes for a much more relaxing trip in general. It may take a bit longer but depending where you're going it's less actual driving time and you can chill for a few hours, have a decent meal etc."

Jennifer Taylor said: "In general, it depends on two main factors: where in France you are going to and how many people are travelling.

"My husband and I go from near London to La Mayenne (53) and, having tried a few options over the years, Brittany Ferries Portsmouth to St Malo is both the most direct and most pleasant route. If going via St Malo is particularly expensive, then the Économie version to Le Havre is the most cost-effective route.

"If our daughter is travelling on her own, she will use TGV and Eurostar, but that ends up very expensive for more than one person, plus you can’t take as much stuff with you."

In terms of cost, ferries in particular can vary hugely depending on the season on how far in advance you are booking, but a quick search for a Calais to Dover crossing for this weekend brought out a ferry ticket at €117, while the tunnel came out a €143.

One of the major advantages of the tunnel is flexibility, with a crossing every half hour if you arrive at the terminal early you can often move your crossing forward, while if you miss your booked time you can transfer onto a later service. It's also possible to buy a (more expensive) FlexiPlus ticket that allows you to travel at any time.

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The tunnel is also less likely to be disrupted by poor weather, and the company appears to be taking a bullish attitude to Brexit, with its website proudly proclaiming: "Our shuttles will be running as usual throughout 2019, whatever form Brexit takes."

The ferry, however, offers more flexibility in terms of destinations with Calais, Caen, Le Havre, Roscoff, Cherbourg and St Malo all offering regular routes to Britain and longer trips offer the chance of overnight crossings so the driver can have a proper rest.

Ferries also offer restaurants, bars, cafés and - on some routes - cinemas and other entertainments.

The major advantage of both methods of transport is that you can take your car, ideal for family holidays or for people travelling over with lots of stuff.

If you're happy to travel car-free, you of course also have the option of flying or taking the Eurostar.

However it appears that flyboard technology isn't quite ready to be marketed commercially yet, judging by the experience of France's 'flying soldier' on Thursday.

 

 

 
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Rob - 29 Jul 2019 08:47
It really depends on where you live in the UK and in France. For me the ferry (Portsmouth to St Malo) wins hands down as the overnight crossing uses downtime and total drive time is 4 hours (1 1/2 in the UK and 2 1/2 in France). Compare that to the Eurotunnel which would be 40 minutes drive in the UK then 9 to 10 hours drive in France.
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