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Eurostar debuts London to Marseille high-speed rail link

Philippe Huguen, AFP | Archival picture shows passengers boarding Eurostar at St Pancras International, London

Eurostar on Friday began whisking passengers from London to Marseille in a journey that took just over six hours as the international rail company opened a permanent and direct route connecting Britain and southern France.

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The new year-round transport service will see high-speed TGV trains race from the heart of London to the French cities of Lyon, Avignon and Marseille, the company announced.

Eurostar said travellers departing from St Pancras International would be able to reach Lyon in four-and-a-half hours, Avignon in just less than six hours, and the Mediterranean city of Marseille in six-and-a-half hours.

Lyon is considered to be the capital of French gastronomy, while Avignon attracts tens of thousands of tourists for its annual theatre festival.

Marseille, France’s second-largest city, is a historic Mediterranean port, long considered a gateway between continental Europe and much of the world.

The new, permanent service extends Eurostar’s list of international destinations, which already includes links from the British capital to Paris, Brussels and Geneva.

TGV tickets for travel between London and southern France went on sale in December 2014, with fares starting from 111 euros.

“Brits have a long standing love affair with the south of France, and our new service brings the gastronomy, culture and art from the region closer to the UK,” Eurostar commercial director Nick Mercer said in a statement when the company announced the launch of its new rail link last year.

Eurostar faces a period of change in the coming months and years. The British government announced in March that it had reached a deal over the sale of its 40 percent stake in the company, while next year marks the end of Eurostar’s monopoly on the use of the Channel tunnel.

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