Published 3rd January 2013
International train operator Eurostar has reported a surge in bookings this Christmas. The busiest travel days were December 21 and 22 suggesting passengers are taking advantage of the way Christmas Day falls this year.
This busy time has also seen the introduction of the new direct ‘Ski Train’ from St. Pancras to The Swiss Alps.
Eurostar transported tens of thousands of passengers from all over the UK to France, Belgium and Switzerland for the festive period. From Friday 21 December to Thursday 3 January, Eurostar’s bookings showed that more than 160,000 passengers travelling from the UK.
The new Ski Train was due to take hundreds of passengers from St. Pancras to some of Switzerland’s most popular ski resorts on Saturday 22 December for its inaugural journey. The train calls at Ashford en-route to the heart of the Swiss Alps and the Valais region serving the resorts at Verbier, Zermatt, Saas Fee and Gstaad. The service runs until 13 April 2013.
Cross platform connections are also available at Lille to a high-speed TGV Lyria service for passengers going to Aigle, Martigny, Visp and Brig stations for quick onward transfers to their ski resorts. Eurostar and TGV Lyria will allow passengers to carry skis or snowboards at no extra cost.
Eurostar’s annual direct ski services to the French Alps also commenced on December 21 with the first night service to the popular French ski towns of Moûtiers, Aime-La-Plagne and Bourg St Maurice running on Friday 21 December and the first day service the following day.
Nick Mercer, Commercial Director for Eurostar commented; “We’re expecting this to be one of our busiest festive periods for years. Our French ski service grows in popularity year on year and with our new Swiss Alps ski service launching as well this weekend we’re expecting a bumper 2012 festive period.”
As the Ski trains depart, the tickets for the summer services to the south of France are already on sale. Next summer, Eurostar is launching a trial service to Lyon and Provence through May and June to complement our annual Avignon summer services.
Direct trains will reach Lyon, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence for the first time from London operating a weekly service. The new train runs from 4 May to the 29 June 2013 inclusive. On the return leg, passengers will need to disembark in Lille Europe to complete the necessary security and passport checks before re-boarding a dedicated Eurostar service to the UK.
Nick Mercer, Commercial Director for Eurostar commented, “Our direct Avignon summer services grow in popularity year on year and our customers tell us they’d like to see it extended to offer even more choice of holiday destinations. We’re committed to listening to their feedback, which is why we’re testing this new service to Lyon, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence, three of the most popular destinations in the South of France.
“By trialling this new service for future years, and by opening sales to our existing annual summer Avignon services earlier than usual, we are giving customers even more flexibility and choice when planning their trips to the South of France next year. Journeys with Eurostar avoid the summer scramble at the airports and we encourage passengers to book early to avoid disappointment.”
Eurostar has celebrated the 18th anniversary of the start of high-speed passenger services which commenced with ‘preview’ services in 1994. The Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP, joined Eurostar chief executive Nicolas Petrovic on the Eurostar platforms, to mark the occasion with the cutting of a special birthday cake.
The same celebrations marked the 5th anniversary of Eurostar moving from Waterloo International to St Pancras International and the opening of HS1, the UK’s first high-speed rail line, in 2007.
The Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick Loughlin MP, said; “This important milestone marks the coming of age of Eurostar and it is testament to its success that we now think nothing of hopping on a train in London and getting off in Paris or Brussels. The last five years have also given the UK its first real taste of high speed rail. From the splendour of the redesigned St Pancras to the mouth of the channel tunnel itself, HS1 shows what a difference such projects can make. That is why I am determined to press ahead with HS2 – a network that will build on the success of HS1 to deliver jobs, growth and much-needed extra rail capacity.”
Nicolas Petrovic, Eurostar Chief Executive, said; “What once seemed like the stuff of science fiction is now part of our everyday lives. We’re proud to have changed the way people think about travelling between the UK and the Continent.
“Everyone from business travellers and holiday makers to day trippers and second home-owners, now enjoys the speed, ease and convenience of city centre to city centre high-speed rail. We have our eyes firmly set on the future and with many exciting projects in the pipeline our customers can look forward to the next chapter in Eurostar’s story.”
When the first Eurostar trains left London in 1994, they carried a total of 38,000 in the first month of operation. Now, 18 years later, passenger numbers in 2012 average more than 830,000 a month. Over the course of those 18 years Eurostar has carried more than 130 million travellers more than doubling the total number of passengers travelling (by air or rail) between London and Paris, Lille and Brussels.
In 1994 journey times between London and Paris were 3h00 and Brussels 3h15. Since then, as successive sections of the high-speed line in the UK have been completed those journey times have fallen considerably. With the completion of HS1 five years ago today, the London-Paris journey time was slashed again to 2h15 and London Brussels to 2h00.