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Petition for Eurostar’s return to Kent reaches 29,000, as Ashford council leaders say they won’t give up fight

By: Alex Jee

Published: 05:00, 25 August 2023

Updated: 13:07, 25 August 2023

The fight to bring Eurostar back to Kent is not over yet, says the man overseeing the fortunes of a town reeling from its loss.

Ashford Borough Council leader Noel Ovender made the comments as a campaign to restore the international train company’s services in the county gains the support of almost 30,000 people.

The fight continues to see Eurostar services in Kent again, with almost 30,000 signing a petition calling for its return

But bosses at the operator say it will not resume services at Ashford and Ebbsfleet stations until 2025 at the earliest.

Cllr Ovenden (Ashford Ind), who was sworn in as leader earlier this year after the Conservative party was ousted, says the absence of Eurostar is a “real challenge” for residents and businesses in the district.

“The services at Ashford International Station are not only important for existing businesses and travellers, they are also important for our future commercial investments,” he added.

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“There was a public outcry when Eurostar made their initial announcement and the local strength of feeling is clearly reflected by recent meetings and the petition that has been launched, which we welcome.


“The prospect that Eurostar is not likely to return anytime soon represents a real challenge for those residents and businesses that rely on the service and those that work locally.

Cllr Noel Ovenden, new leader of Ashford Borough Council

“Ashford is an important economic driver for not only Kent and the east Kent region, but also an important international access point to Europe.”

A campaign from residents and travellers from across the south east who regularly used the services has garnered tens of thousands of backers.

The total number of signatures on the online petition on is nearing 29,000, after growing by more than 10,000 in just four months from April.

Cllr Ovenden also pointed to “significant investment” at the station and in the area, which “encourages both business and leisure travel to Europe”, adding that the council is in “regular dialogue” with Eurostar and other partners including local MP Damian Green, the government, High-Speed One and Kent County Council.

“It is imperative that the benefits of this investment are realised through services being returned to support the economy of Kent and the UK,” he said.

The international side of Ashford train is near-empty following Eurostar’s departure

“We will not give up on this and will continue to make the case for their return, as soon as its commercially viable.

“International rail services provide an alternative to travelling by road or air. Not only is it a much more sustainable mode of transport, it also makes sense from an economical point of view too.


“With the valuable support of local residents, we will continue our fight and call on the government to intervene in order to maintain the prosperity of the borough and indeed the wider east Kent region.”

The council is not the only Kent-based authority to fight against Eurostar’s decision to pull out of Kent.

Ebbsfleet International station. Picture: Nick Johnson

Earlier this month, the leader of Dartford council branded the firm’s move a “national disgrace” and called for government intervention to force it to return to Ebbsfleet and Ashford.

Jeremy Kite fired a broadside at his own government over its failure to take steps to require Eurostar to restore services, and said it was time it intervened.

Earlier this month, KentOnline revealed that part of the largely empty multi-story Eurostar staff car park at Ashford International could be used by staff at a new bike factory.

Bosses at Brompton Bicycle, the folding bike-maker, want to build a multimillion-pound HQ on land opposite Asda and the Designer Outlet close to the station.

The proposed factory along Avenue Jacques Faucheux could create up to 4,000 jobs but is due to be a car-free scheme – meaning it will not feature any parking spaces.

The idea is that staff and visitors will be encouraged to walk or cycle, but transport assessments carried out by Kent Highways say options for those with no choice but to drive should be considered.

No international trains have run from Ashford International since services were suspended during lockdown

A spokesman for Eurostar said: “Our Kent stations will remain closed throughout 2023 and 2024. We will provide an update should anything change regarding this.

“We understand this is disappointing for the local communities, and we will continue to work closely and openly with the local councils on the future of the stations.”

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