As border police find it challenging to process passports quickly, Eurostar trains run across the channel with hundreds of empty seats.
Despite a “huge demand” for eco-friendly international travel, almost 350 seats out of 900 are typically left unsold on the first services linking London, Paris, and Brussels, in spite of “huge demand,” Eurostar bosses conveyed.
Since Brexit, all British passports must be stamped separately, even for those entering through electronic gates. Although the passengers are requested to arrive 90 minutes before departure, due to a bottleneck at the station, there is not enough time for all the passports to get processed in time, stated Gwendoline Cazenave, the chief executive.
She further added that when restrictions on international travel were imposed during the COVID pandemic, there was a drastic reduction of border police staff in Paris Nord and St Pancras, along with the implementation of Brexit rules: “You have to stamp UK passports.”
Running the group since October 2022, Cazenave said, “Even If – I have a work permit, they know who I am – they ask: What are you going to do in the UK? It takes almost 30% more time [than before].”
Since Eurostar could roughly accommodate 70% of pre-Covid and pre-Brexit seats over the channel, her main priority was handling station capacity challenges.
Due to space constraints at the station for border control, only 250 seats can be filled from Amsterdam, even though flights leaving from London to the Dutch capital are one of the busiest in Europe, Cazenave added.
According to her, the UK is in high demand, with leisure travel “fully restored” and roughly 80–85% of business travelers returning in comparison to 2019.
“The pity is we cannot offer enough seats because of these station bottlenecks,” she stated.
Ebbsfleet and Ashford stations in Kent won’t be reopened until the situation at major hubs is rectified, and she also ruled out restoring Eurostar’s well-liked ski train service.
François Le Doze responded that seats on services were limited throughout the day to avoid delays escalating because early morning trains were generally affected. He further continued, “We have become expert in capping trains – fine tuning the number of seats available.”
He acknowledged that passengers wanting greener travel had to pay more compared to other means of transport since the fare was expensive. He added, “It’s like organic food. As long as there’s a capacity issue, it throws up difficulties.”
As the travel restrictions are going to be implemented on visitors, including UK travelers as per the EU’s entry-exit system, the situation regarding the queues and capacity is likely to further escalate. As of now, these policies have been postponed until the end of 2023. Even though they are postponed, which is a welcome relief, it remains “a major concern,” as per Cazenave.
A new logo for Eurostar was unveiled after the company merged with Franco-Belgian high-speed operator Thalys last year. The company also reiterated its goal of increasing passenger traffic from a combined 19 million for the two companies in 2019 to 30 million by 2030.
From 2023, a single website and booking system will be available for booking direct and connecting journeys between the continent and London. Travelers from the UK would be able to buy Eurostar tickets connecting German and Belgian destinations, including Cologne and Dortmund.
- Published By Team Timeswire