Eurostar has been dealing with capacity cuts since the pandemic, with Eurostar’s chief commercial officer François Le Doze stating that “a great proportion of trains are capped” despite the huge demand for services.
“The pity is that we can’t offer enough seats because of the stations’ bottleneck”, explained Cazenave.
“We have [an] amazing European network. The domestic network is huge and very efficient, so it’s key for us to be very well connected to have an end-to-end customer experience from one city to another. This is our main focus about the way we are going to grow.”
Cazenave said that it is currently taking 30 per cent more time to process passengers due to border checks and the stamping of passports following Brexit. Such processing times mean that the train operator is currently only selling 550 of the 900 seats on the first trains of the day from London-Paris, Paris-London, and London-Brussels.
To improve the situation, Cazenave commented:
“It doesn’t mean it’s impossible to tackle. We have to make it possible again but it means we have to be better organised, [with] more policing staff, more investment in automised e-gates (and these are not working quite well).”
“We need to add more booths and more e-gates at St Pancras and Gare du Nord – the length of the station has to be re-worked. In Brussels, the issue is that there are big booths but not enough of them.”
“We are working hard with the UK Border Force and Police aux Frontieres.”
The CEO remains optimistic about growth, particularly as leisure has returned strongly and business travel is back to 80-85 per cent compared to 2019 levels. “There is still the same willingness to travel between the UK and mainland Europe,” she said. “Our job is to make it possible.”
However, Cazenave described the forthcoming Entry Exit System (EES) for travellers from non-EU countries as a “major concern for all the actors”, with the system likely to increase congestion at stations. The EES was scheduled to launch this May, but has been officially postponed to the end of the year.
Eurostar also confirmed that it is planning a fifth frequency on the London-Amsterdam route in 2024 and that the Thalys fleet is being refurbished, with Cazenave stating that it is growing by 10 per cent capacity and adding 30 seats on the existing 300 seats.
Many of our readers have voiced their concerns regarding Eurostar no longer stopping at Ashford and Ebbsfleet International. In reply to the question as to when these would return, Cazenave told Business Traveller:
“Until we have fixed our border issues at London and Paris, we cannot imagine putting [the services] back.”