Come Back To Eurostar



In the month, when train fares increased a record 5.9%, the Government is failing to support direct train services from the south coast to the continent. Not helped by the ongoing indecision around an upgrade to the line and rolling stock, from Hastings to the downgraded Ashford (International).

Diesel Units from Eastbourne to Ashford (International)

Meanwhile on the continent there has been a big move from short distance flights to train travel – including through a growing number of cheap sleeper services to major European destinations. The UK is simply falling behind.

Continuing absence of international rail connections between the two counties and the continent (Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam) and growing pressure for capacity increases at Gatwick Airport (2nd runway), sit uncomfortably together in the context of supposed commitment to sustainable, low carbon transport choices.

We know that Eurostar is having to operate services from London, St Pancras with empty seats due to increased time needed for passport formalities post Brexit, and the need for punctual departures. This may have marginalised the business case for Ashford International stops. We also know that Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper, MP, visited his French counterpart, ClĂ©ment Beaune, to discuss eliminating border related issues such as queues at London and Paris terminals. That might help bring back Ashford services – we await results.

We are sure that restoration of international services to/from the important rail hub of Ashford presents significant opportunities for travellers both to and from the near continent and would do a great deal to promote currently bypassed but outstanding tourism offer of Kent and East Sussex – without creating more road traffic: our MPs and Local Authorities should wake up and shout about this!

It is worth noting that pre-Brexit, and pre-pandemic, Eurostar had captured from the airlines 80% or more of the market for travel between London and Paris/Brussels*. If Mark Harper succeeds with his French opposite number in removing admin bottlenecks, then new, already planned services to Geneva/Bordeaux/ Frankfurt could follow, further reducing volumes of air traffic.

In conclusion: the neglect of greener travel options is in sharp contrast to the support for more destructive, costly roads – and Gatwick’s second runway.

The climate wins; we all win.

Derrick Coffee

*Source: Eurotunnel, 2019.