I have not taken Eurostar recently, but judging by comments posted on my previous blog posts about the service, it seems that the security paranoia that afflicts the route has not diminished.
Anyway, for the first time in months, I am going to be on Eurostar on Friday this week, and am taking my journey as a little experiment.
I will be on service number 9157, between Brussels and London, leaving Brussels at 1856. This is the Brussels – London timetable excerpt (full PDF here):
Right then. My train does stop in Lille Europe, and not in Calais.
The next task: can tickets even be booked on this service between Brussels and Lille? I used SNCB’s search to check this, and it only shows trains 9133 (1256 departure), and 9161 (1952 departure) – i.e. it will not let me book Brussels – Lille on train 9157. I also checked with the same search on Capitaine Train, and it is even clearer – train 9157 shows up, but the site tells me that booking anything on it for Brussels – Lille is impossible. I have also tried multiple days for my searches, just to make sure that it is not only because one service is full.
So train 9157 does not set down any passengers in Lille, it only picks them up, and beyond Lille it does not stop the whole way to St Pancras. This means that the Lille Loophole does not apply to this service (but would apply to trains 9133 and 9161).
What does this mean for security checks on board this service? It means that a passport check by the UK Borders Authority in Brussels should suffice, and the same for passengers boarding in Lille. No further checks should be needed on board the train, nor at St Pancras.
Let’s see what happens on Friday, because I would be really surprised if that is actually what happens.
[UPDATE: thanks to digging by @philrichardsuk and I, we are now even more confused than we were. It seems SNCB can only offer Eurostar tickets up until 27th April inclusive, at the time of writing, and often only train 9133 (1256 departure), and 9149 (1656 departure) show, and not the 1952 departure. In any case, I think the main gist of this piece holds!]