London Mayor Sadiq Khan is warning the introduction of new EU biometric border checks later this year will cause ‘chaos’ for passengers travelling by Eurostar.
His comments follow a warning to MPs by High Speed 1, which owns and operates Eurostar’s London terminal, that the cross-Channel train operator might have to cap capacity when the new Exit/Entry (EES) checks are introduced.
It’s expected that it will take up to an extra two minutes to process passengers, since they will be required to provide an initial fingerprint and facial scan.
But HS1 said that the French government has allocated fewer than half of the extra 49 kiosks needed to process passengers during peak times, such as early in the morning.
HS1 warned that the lack of processing capacity, combined with the Government’s decision not to set up online pre-registration for passengers, could lead to long queues building up at St Pancras station, straining the infrastructure and forcing Eurostar to limit the number of seats it sells on each train.
The much-delayed EES checks are now set to be introduced from October 2024.
Urging Ministers to help HS1 and Eurostar to resolve issues and avoid cuts to services and longer delays, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “As it stands these new post-Brexit checks will cause chaos at St Pancras, with cuts to services and potentially huge queues facing passengers at peak times.”
He added: “Ministers now need to offer HS1 and Eurostar all the support it needs to resolve these issues as a matter of urgency. Cuts to services and longer delays simply isn’t an option.”
A Eurostar spokesperson said it was ‘working closely with UK and EU member states’ as well as HS1 to prepare for the new border checks.
It added: “Our focus is to minimise the impact on our customers to ensure the smoothest possible travel experience.
“We have proactively worked on projections to accurately assess our needs, and are therefore planning to install around 65 pre-registration kiosks at our terminals in St Pancras in London and Gare du Nord in Paris.”
The spokesperson clarified to Travel Gossip that it is installing 65 new kiosks in total, across both stations.
“We are also significantly strengthening the border control capacity with additional manual booths and e-gates in both stations,” he added.
“Eurostar has invested around €10m in deploying solutions that meet these new regulations.”
A Government spokesman told The Independent: “The UK Government is working closely with the EU and member states to minimise any impact at our shared borders with Europe.
“The Home Secretary recently met with the French interior minister to discuss the introduction of the Entry/Exit system and we are in close contact with the travel industry and port authorities to ensure they are prepared to minimise the risk of delays.”