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Eurostar brings south of France closer with direct route to Marseille from Ashford from next May

By Samantha Williams

Eurostar have announced plans for a direct service from Ashford to the south of France.

The train giant’s head of public affairs, Pierre Delalande, revealed details about the new route at a recent Ashford Borough Council meeting.

The line will run from St Pancras, via Ashford, to the city of Marseille and is expected to launch from May 2015.

Direct journeys to the south of France have been launched: iStock.com

It comes as the high speed service reports a slowing of growth and revenues, put down to the "World Cup effect".

Mr Delalande said: “We plan to increase our level of new destinations from May next year.

“We will launch a new service to Marseille which will indeed stop in Ashford. It will be an all-year-round service.”

It is understood the line to Marseille, the second largest city in France, from the UK will be seamless, with no changes.

However, the return journey will be semi-direct and will see a change in Lille, due to immigration issues.

On this matter, Mr Delalande said: “We would love to have a direct return journey but we have to follow immigration policy.”

Although the service will run all year, trains will not stop every day in Ashford, with more running during peak times and fewer in the winter months.

Ticket sales are expected to open as early as December, with the first departure planned for May. It is unknown how long the rail journey would take.

Take a train... and you could be quaffing pastis in Marseille

Councillors embraced news of the planned new route.

Godinton ward member Cllr Bernard Heyes (Con), who is the ABC portfolio holder for transportation, highways and engineering, said: “I welcome the news of a new service to Marseille.

"I would also like to see more trains stopping in Ashford that go to both Paris and Lille, as well as Brussels.”

Park Farm south member, Cllr Jim Wedgbury (Con) said: “I also welcome the new route to Marseille. I recently flew to France via Ryanair and the flights are full.

“It will be good to give them competition.”

Direct train services will be running from Ashford to Marseille from next year

Mr Delalande added: “We’re hoping by next year to have more visibility on stopping patterns and journey times but don’t have these details at the moment.”

Planning and development portfolio holder Cllr David Robey (Con) said: “It is important to have more routes from Ashford to Europe.

"Especially with the planned expansion of the Designer Outlet, which is hoping to increase its visitors from three million a year to seven million a year.”

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