Eurostar reveals why it has slashed capacity and axed popular Disneyland service

By Linsey McNeill
28/09/2022
Home » Eurostar reveals why it has slashed capacity and axed popular Disneyland service

Eurostar says it has been forced to cut its peak capacity by almost a third because it’s taking so much longer to complete border checks since Britain left the EU.

The need to stamp British passports has added at least 15 seconds to the processing time for each passenger, it says.

And if the train operator hadn’t cut capacity, this would have led to ‘daily queues in central London similar to those experienced in Channel ports,’ according to Eurostar Chief Executive Jacques Damas.

He was responding to a letter from MP Huw Merriman, Chair of the Transport Select Committee, asking why Eurostar had closed Ebbsfleet and Ashford international stations in Kent and axed its popular Disneyland Paris service from next June.

Mr Damas said Eurostar has upgraded the French passports gates in St Pancras and more UK gates are being added in Paris.

It is also installing an extra French booth in London but he said said peak capacity at the moment is about 30% lower than pre-Brexit.

“Even with all booths manned, St Pancras can currently process a maximum 1,500 passengers an hour versus 2,200 in 2019,” he said.

“The situation has obvious commercial consequences and is not sustainable in the mid-to-long term. But the immediate consequence is that we are currently not able to respond to the high demand on our core routes linking capital cities.

“Re-opening the intermediate stations (where demand and yields are much lower) would make things even worse as it would take away from London vital border police resources.”

Mr Damas added that Eurostar had emerged from the pandemic with a £500m debt and the combination of the two factors mean that it ‘cannot currently pursue a strategy of volume and growth’.

“We are having to focus services on those core routes which make the maximum contribution per train and to charge higher prices to our customers,” he added.

Mr Damas said Eurostar was also being hampered by a shortage of maintenance engineers in its main depot in Stratford, and also it was not yet able to predict how business and leisure markets will respond to factors such as the energy crisis and ‘new work-from-home’ habits.

“There is considerable uncertainty about the ability of customers to pay in the context of the current and forecast pressures on the cost of living. At the same time the business itself faces nearly £100m in increased inflationary pressures,” he added.

“Once again, this is most acute on the UK side where the HS1 nfrastructure – which is already three to four times more expensive per km than its French equivalent – is now rising in price almost three times as fast.”

Mr Merriman said the Transport Committee will write to the new Minister and Rail Regulator ‘for observations and interventions to support Eurostar’.

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