Opinion Split on Best Way London to Stuttgart

Do you cough up for French road tolls, or suffer Belgian roads and German traffic? Real drivers have their say on the best way from London to Stuttgart.

Also, a quick look at Land Rover’s new three day off-road course near Barcelona. Also, last chance saloon for Condor Ferries. Consultation on better cross-Channel truck security. Secret agents red-faced after off-road Kiel Canal blunder.

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OPINION SPLIT ON BEST WAY LONDON TO STUTTGART

French tolls or Belgian roads and German traffic?

Photo Peter Herridge

Photo Peter Herridge

Thanks to a very dense motorway network there are plenty of variations on the route, but broadly speaking there are three options when driving from London to Stuttgart.

Through France, via Belgium and Luxembourg for cheap fuel, or via Belgium to the autobahns as soon as possible.

The quickest is through France – just over ten hours driving, according to Google maps, past Reims and Metz, crossing the German border near Karlsruhe.

The shortest route is via Belgium and Luxembourg, on the so-called ‘bottom road’ E42 through Lille and Charleroi before turning onto the A4 at Namur for the Grand Duchy and into Germany by Saarbrucken.

Despite being 30 miles less it takes an extra thirty minutes over the French way, but saves the substantial road toll: €112 each way according to autoroutes.fr (the A16 from Calais and A25 to Lille are both toll-free).

The other alternative is the E40 through Brussels then Liege, Aachen to pick up the A61 near Cologne then down past Koblenz to Mannheim.

Notionally that takes the same time as the E42 route, and is easier to navigate, but – depending on the time of day – could put drivers in the clutches of the notorious Brussels R0 ring road.

Peter Herridge, who started the discussion off with his recent trip to the Mercedes and Porsche museums in Stuttgart, is firmly in favour of the Belgian route: ‘No road tolls,’ he says, ‘and less likely to see police (not that it matters of course!)’

Funnily enough, Wort.lu, the English-language Luxembourg newspaper, agrees: ‘Belgium, with no road tolls :-),’

(By the way, unleaded95 currently sells for €1.004/l in Luxembourg and diesel at €0.856.)

The managing editor of EVO magazine Stuart Gallagher is another Belgium fan, though it sounds like he’s found the quickest route of all: ‘Always went through Belgium: Liege – Spa – Prum – outskirts of Saarbrucken – Mannheim – Karlsruhe – Stuttgart. 5hr 30mins. The Panamera diesel could just do it on a single tank of fuel.’

Because of likely heavy traffic however, he adds: ‘The night is best for heading east, early morning heading west.’

Traffic sees his colleague on Autocar favour the French motorways. Europe editor Greg Kable says, ‘France! Higher average speed on the autoroutes and, usually, less traffic.’

Meanwhile, practiced Continental driver Chris Pointon also prefers France: ‘Always the French route for me, better roads, less speed cameras and nicer places to stop for lunch, Reims, Metz and Strasbourg.’

The road tolls are not a problem either. ‘It’s worth paying the extra for that route,’ he says.

Cath Greenway is another one with no doubts about the best way to go: ‘France definitely. Belgian roads are rubbish compared to French motorways (see more on the state of Belgian roads).’

And the road tolls? ‘Actually I don’t mind. Compare French tolls per mile to the M6 Toll. I pay for UK roads too and they’re dismal.’

Finally, keen skier Louise Little heads through France on her regular trips to south west Germany and beyond -though she has an interesting qualification.

‘We do UK to Basel and prefer the French route having tried both,’ she says. ‘There’s less traffic and the road conditions are good. It’s a practical journey for us so gets the job done! The other way was more interesting admittedly!’

However, because keeping a close eye on costs and journey times is a fundamental part of his business, the last word should probably go to James McCann from McCann Transport Services in Gateshead.

‘Belgium every time,’ he says, ‘Either Lille along the bottom road, or time Brussels right!’

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Go off-roading with Land Rover in Spain in September. The three day course centres around the multi-peaked Montserrat mountain near Barcelona. It also includes the Les Comes Estate, site of the annual 4x4 Festival with 60km of tracks used in the qualifying stages of the Camel Trophy and G4 Challenge. Overnight at Can Bonastre Wine Resort, the mediaeval Parador de Cardona and the El Palace Hotel in Barcelona. From £3995 per person based on two sharing, including meals. Organised by Abercrombie & Kent.

Go off-roading with Land Rover in Spain in September. The three day course centres around the multi-peaked Montserrat mountain near Barcelona. It also includes the Les Comes Estate, site of the annual 4×4 Festival with 60km of tracks used in the qualifying stages of the Camel Trophy and G4 Challenge. Overnight at Can Bonastre Wine Resort, the mediaeval Parador de Cardona and the grand El Palace Hotel in Barcelona. From £3995 per person. Organised by Abercrombie & Kent.

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roundup: CONDOR FERRIES has been given two weeks to sort out its service says the Jersey Evening Post. Condor and its customers have had a torrid year since the introduction of the new €50 million Liberation fast ferry with regular technical and operational problems. Matters, it seems, have come to a head. The firm’s services to and from the Channel Islands are regulated by an operating agreement with the States. What with all the disruption, the firm is said to be in breach of its contract. The Chief Minister and others will meet with Condor and owners Macquarie Bank on Wednesday. CALAIS TRUCKS. The British government is consulting on what it calls ways to ‘improve the clandestine civil penalty regime’. This includes the highly controversial £2000 fine for the truck driver and operator for each illegal migrant brought into the UK. Part of the focus is on truck security – the Home Office says it recognises most hauliers secure vehicles properly but a significant number do not, one third according to a recent exercise. It wants to ‘incentivise’ operators to improve security. British drivers account for 7% of the penalties despite making up 14% of cross-Channel traffic. The Freight Transport Association says it is pleased the government is working with the industry to combat illegal immigration. The consultation started on 7 March and runs for six weeks, see more. GERMANY. Two armed Mossad secret agents got stuck in the mud while driving through a forest near Kiel in mid-December reports Haaretz.com. A suspicious local called police who left without taking any action after reviewing diplomatic passports and firearms permits. However, firemen failed to free the pair’s Ford Focus so a farmer had to be called in. A bill for €1263 has now been sent to the Israeli Embassy in Berlin. The agents were apparently keeping an eye on a submarine due to be dispatched to Israel but got stuck on the banks of the Kiel Canal.

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