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Ouch! Now Eurostar starts charging for instruments

It’s not just Amtrak. On Eurostar, running from London to Paris and Brussels, they’ve quietly changed the rules.

It now costs a child’s seat to carry a cello on board, or 40 Euros if you send it in the luggage van.

Here’s the latest small print (thanks to Callum Thomson for the link, and the RLPO for the pic).

cellos mangled

As for doubles-basses, in Spain they can refuse altogether to let them on board (link sent by Dianne Winsor). Read here.

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  1. Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    I assume the artwork is by Arman?

    • Not sure. It’s credited by the Liverpool Phil to the Shanghai Concert hall.

      • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

        Yes, they have a collection of his works in Shanghai including a commission, I believe. He died in 2005 (real name is Armand Fernandez known as “Arman”).

        On the topic of train fares: Better to pay a small amount and have a guaranteed place especialy on Eurostar than to travel at the whim of a railway employee. Could Brussells help with a unified policy throughout the 27 countries? Of course they could, but will they? I’m not holding my breath…

  2. Why should they not charge? The instrument takes up space they could otherwise sell.

    I’m a lighting designer. My art is created on my computer. I have never had the baggage fee for that instrument waived, nor have I ever considered asking for it to be.

    • Jeffrey – they got these things now which are called “laptops” or “notebooks” which are, basically, like really small computers. You can carry them in a small shoulder bag! And they are so good now they what most big computers do! If you get one of those, you don’t have to pay baggage fees anymore. It’s like carrying a big book around, nothing more.

      • …And some airlines are charging for carry-ons…and of course,there’s the backup computer I usually carry, for insurance.

        …But thanks for the patronizing tone; it certainly enhances the conversation.

        • You are welcome! I have some good news for you, too – I have one of them newfangled laptop thingies with which I travel all the time, and they always let me carry it on for free because it’s in a small shoulder bag. I also often have a ,second computer with me as backup, but it’s also a laptop so I can put it into a hard case and put it into my checked luggage. I have, however, also carried on both in a slightly bigger shoulder bag (no charge). At times, I even squeeze an iPad in there, too! That’s like a really small kind-of computer – I am typing on it right now!.

  3. Well, we’re talking about private companies. You can’t force them to subsidize arts. From a business point of view, it is perfectly logical to charge for the transport of especially heavy and/or bulky luggage.

    For the benefit of arts, it would of course be nice if they didn’t charge for it. But we should regard this as a voluntary contribution, not a right.

    • If they don’t charge for bicycles, small furniture, and large suitcases – all of which I’ve seen people carry on trains – why should they charge for a musical instrument?

      • That’s of course true. I’m not aware of the details of the railway companies’ luggage charging policies. I just wanted to point out that, from a business point of view, a cello case is just another piece of bulky luggage.

  4. The cello fits easily into the baggage compartments at the end of the Eurostar carriages, and into the overhead. It in fact often takes up less space than a large suitcase in the baggage compartments as you can still fit suitcases in front. This is why we expect not to have to pay (if one doesn’t for a normal large suitcase).

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      And you are willing to leave your cello unattended in a luggage rack at the end of a carriage where others could manipulate it to make space for their own bags? Sounds dicey to me.

  5. Well, I’m afraid that It won’t make sense only if they charge singers for their instruments. Otherwise, They are losing space that they could sell. Unless the musician will let it at the baggage compartment, Like Rosie Biss’s Cello (I hope that singers don’t do it ever).

  6. Nick Bomford says:

    UK – National Rail website:
    Customers may take up to three items of personal luggage free of charge, this includes two large items (such as suitcases or rucksacks) and one item of smaller hand luggage (such as a briefcase). Full details of the free allowances are available at stations.
    Excess luggage and certain more bulky items (such as skis) may be carried, subject to available space, at an extra charge.
    On Gatwick Express services bulky items such as skis are conveyed free in the luggage van. There is plenty of space on board for other luggage.”

    “Accompanied animals and articles for which charges are payable:
    Each additional item of personal luggage above the free allowance.
    Each seat occupied by luggage, container or other articles when the seat is needed for passenger use.

    Each article exceeding one metre in any dimension that can be carried by one person.”

    I wonder where this leaves cello players? To pay extra or not? I have never known a cellist be charged in the UK – has it happened before? Please shout!

    And double-bass players:
    “Articles and Animals not carried:
    Articles exceeding one metre in any dimension that cannot be carried by the passenger concerned. This includes canoes, hang-gliders, sail/surf boards, large furniture and any large musical instrument that cannot be carried without assistance.”

    To me that sounds contradictory because one person CAN carry a double bass in a soft case without assistance, but it IS larger than one metre.

    More comments please!

  7. another orchestra musician says:

    Clearly there is room for dispute in interpreting the National Rail regulations. A former colleague of mine sometimes carried two double basses at once, in soft cases strapped over his back, while riding his bicycle between the train station, at 450 metres of altitude, and our workplace, at 610 metres. Remarkably neither he nor his instruments ever suffered any significant damage.

    He was of course an uncommonly robust fellow, and somewhat eccentric. But if my colleague was able to single-handedly manage two double basses and a bicycle in a train baggage car and on narrow city streets, other musicians may be able to do the same.

  8. stanley cohen says:

    Steven Isserlis once said that after years of travel sardine class with his beloved instrument in the hold, once he’d ‘made it’ and travelled 1st class, with his cello alongside him, he countered any cute comments from the check-in staff by requesting confirmation of a Kosher meal for his instrument.

  9. As a routine weekly traveler with Eurostar – I travel to Bruxelles every week as I am cello professor there at the Royal Conservatory – I thoroughly enjoy Eurostar and have done ever since its opening over 13 years ago. I feel compelled to agree with Rosie Biss, cello cases do in fact fit in the overhead compartment very nicely, as well as at the end of each of the carriages where there are 5 different places where the cello case can easily be placed. When I travel Eurostar, I put my cello case in the overhead compartment and, as long as the strap connected to the cello case is attached to one of the railings, the case does not move nor can it be moved easily by someone unfamiliar with handling cello cases. I of course much prefer it being over my seat where I can keep an eye on it.
    I would totally agree with Eurostar and its new policy about buying an extra child seat for the instrument if in fact there was no space for it anywhere else or if it was not safe for it anywhere else, but their suggestion of giving it to one of their staff for handling until the arrival journey is not acceptable in my opinion and having spent more time in the Eurostar than most travellers in the last ten years, I have noticed on a weekly basis people carrying skis, as well as two or three massive suitcases into which a full grown human being could fit very nicely.
    Cellos are not heavy, their cases are designed for very good protection as well as portability, and fit perfectly in many places in the Eurostar Train. Let’s stop this nonsense of penalizing musicians trying to make a living in hard enough current financial times and instead help them to make a living, which demands that they travel with their instruments.

    One could suggest to Eurostar that cellists and their cellos must board the train first (like we regularly do on planes) in order to make sure that we secure our instruments perfectly and that cellists are not allowed more than one piece of luggage in addition to the cello case?

    In any case, I have a wonderful relationship with Eurostar, they have always been incredibly helpful. Even though I have had to resign myself at times to not taking my cello, my baby, with me on a weekly basis because of their new policy, I have every faith in Eurostar’s wonderful ability to rise above and separate themselves from the usual problematic airline policies for musicians.

  10. Rebecca Gilliver says:

    This first happened to me on Eurostar well over a year ago, but it does seem to depend on whether you encounter a jobsworthy at check-in or not…Perhaps the MU could get involved – I’m pretty sure they did more than 20 years ago when the then British Rail got briefly antsy about cellos. At one point the advice was to say it was a viola da gamba..!

  11. Thank you, David, for your eloquent message and for bringing this to my attention. I’ve got one thing to add which is that cellos often lead by example when travelling. For example, they make less noise in the quiet coach than anybody else – surely this should be rewarded with free travel and a medal?!
    On a more serious note, I wholeheartedly agree with all and hope that a solution can be met before musicians are left on the streets.

  12. eliot lawson says:

    Come on! if Eurostar really thinks they will make tons of money by charging musicians for the transport of their instruments think again! the musicians will do everything not to pay this stupid fee and so they will look for other means of transportation… this ends up being bad for everybody: eurostar, the musicians and finally and most importantly the environment.

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