The rail industry is notoriously opaque.
Therefore it is refreshing to see Eurostar’s response to questions posed by Huw Merriman MP, chair of the transport select committee.
The MP had previously asked Eurostar’s CEO Jacques Damas why the trains would not call at its two Kent stations until possibly 2025. He had also asked why Eurostar was ending its popular Disneyland Paris train from June 2023.
In his reply Damas places the blame on Brexit, which means Eurostar must concentrate on core routes.
Brexit has meant longer times for travellers to clear formalities at St Pancras. Crucially it means Eurostar must cut passenger volume by 30 per cent.
It means higher fares although, for commercial reasons, it’s not known how many seats remain unfilled.
As Business Traveller reported previously Eurostar fares are very high. In some cases the cheapest standard class fare equates to what an airline would charge for business class.
Travel blogger Paul Lucas says:
“Just choose a random date six weeks from now. Unless you want to travel at appalling times, £100+ please. One-way!”
Just chose a random date 6 weeks from now. Wednesday November 2nd. Unless you want to travel at appalling times, £100+ please. One way! pic.twitter.com/LXqAYaVOZY
— Paul Lucas (@paul_winginit) September 28, 2022
But that’s not all. Eurostar claims it is hampered by high infrastructure costs especially when using HS1 (between London and Folkstone).
Damas says the cost is “three to four times more expensive per km than its French equivalent.”
Finally, some customers wonder why Eurostar is waiting so long before resuming services to its Kent stations. It’s claimed that use of Ebbsfleet and Ashford would reduce congestion at St Pancras.
In response, Damas maintains “reopening the intermediate stations (where demand and yield are lower) would make things even worse as it would take away from London vital border police resources.”
What’s the view from the onboard team?
Eurostar’s senior train manager Justin, tweeted:
“It’s hard to overstate what a relief it is to have this background information out in the open. The spring and summer were really testing times for us with some horrendous queues and delays at times. Hopefully people can see that we were doing our best within the constraints.”
ALLRAIL, a body seeking to foster rail competition, says:
“Eurostar blames the border checks after the UK left the EU. But one wonders whether, if there had been a competitor [Eurostar has held a monopoly since 1994], there might have been a greater incentive to find improved solutions.
“What kind of rail market are we living in where the dominant operator is admitting that in future it “will have to focus on driving high-yield from a limited customer and service base?”
See the CEO’s letter in full. Jacques Damas will shortly step down from his role. His replacement will be Gwendoline Cazenave.
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