Published 23rd March 2014
When Eurostar was created and trains began to operate 20 years ago the late 1980s business plan expectations were that 15 million passengers a year would be carried between London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh to Paris and Brussels.
What was not foreseen was the explosive growth of low cost air travel which also literally took off at the same time. This at a stroke killed off the direct trains from the UK regions to Europe and the seven regional trains, after being leased to GNER for use on the East Coast Main Line were eventually sold to French Railways and are used today on French regional services. This left a fleet of 28 trains to operate the services to and from London.
Some people on the original project have in the past suggested that the passenger forecast was inflated to make the business case for the Channel Tunnel and its Rail Link, now called HS1 stack up.
But, following the opening of HS1 all the way to St. Pancras in November 2007, leaving Waterloo International empty costing a reported half million pounds a year maintenance, passenger numbers have soared.
This is due to the reduction in overall journey-time between London, Lille, Paris and Brussels which is very competitive when measured against air travel and the long check-in times and timer it takes to clear security.
So when Eurostar announced that 2013 was the year they broke through the 10 million passengers in a year barrier, despite the economic downturn in recent years it has reached a key milestone. Passenger volumes rose 2% year-on-year to 10.1 million over 2012 when the Olympics helped boost numbers.
The trains have now carried 140 million passengers since 1994 and 2013 was the tenth consecutive year of growth in traffic. Sales revenues increased by 7% year-on-year and generated £857 million boosted by strong growth in corporate and leisure sales and the operating profit was £54 million an increase of 4% year-on-year
Eurostar has expanded its horizons and now serves the south of France and Alpine ski resorts and is actively generating travel beyond Paris and Brussels for when their new trains can operate direct to places like Amsterdam and Cologne.
“2013 has proved to be a record breaking year for Eurostar and we are pleased with the sustainable growth in both traveller numbers and sales revenues reported today. After a period of economic uncertainty we are now starting to see more confidence in the business market. In comparison with this time last year when the overriding sentiment was still very cautious there are more encouraging trends and in some sectors there is clearly a greater appetite to invest and look for business.“
“2014 will be a transformational year for Eurostar as our on-going programme of service initiatives and enhancements unlocks further potential in the business both at home here in Europe and further afield in our international markets. Eurostar is coming of age and we have a wide ranging programme of activity scheduled throughout the year to celebrate our twentieth birthday in November.”
Leisure travel revenues grew by a huge 7.5% in 2013 as Eurostar’s focus on its expanding network of routes and destinations won business from airlines. The success and popularity of the trial summer service on the Route du Soleil direct to Lyon and Provence in the South of France will be an all year round service from 2015.
Eurostar Dutch railways have joined forces to operate services between London and Amsterdam from the end of 2016 with the journey-time of around four hours. This will radically alter the London–Amsterdam air route which is the largest, international airline market in Europe with over 3 million business and leisure passengers annually. Business travel on Eurostar grew strongly in 2013 with revenue up by 6.2% and the new services will further boost income.
Eurostar has ordered a fleet of new trains built by Siemens and the first one has arrived at their depot in Stratford, London for testing. These will be used to run to Holland and Germany while the existing fleet will be refurbished after 20 years of service and one intermediate overhaul a few years ago. This year, Eurostar has joined forces with German high-speed rail operator Deutsche Bahn, which allows Eurostar passengers to buy one ticket from Eurostar to travel to Aachen, Cologne, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich.
Eurostar is running a competition to win free travel and all you have to do is upload a photo that showcases your favourite hidden gem at a place served by Eurostar services. They suggest picking a local gem that is only known by locals and you have to say why you love it in no more than 250 characters.
They are offering a pair of Eurostar tickets every week, as well as a valuable prize of monthly Eurostar travel for a year.