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Eurostar committed to service cuts from Ashford

EUROSTAR has downplayed the prospects of reversing its decision to reduce services to the continent running from Ashford International station.

Council chiefs and Kent MPs met company representatives for talks about the recently-announced cuts and pressed for a rethink. Both sides emerged saying their discussions had been "constructive".

Eurostar has come under pressure to re-instate a direct service to Brussels and to re-examine the number of trains to Paris. It announced the cutbacks recently, saying more passengers would switch to the Ebbsfleet International Station in north Kent. The number of daily services will go from 10 a day to just four.

But a company spokesman said that while Eurostar understood the concerns that had been expressed, its priority was to run commercially viable services. While services could increase in the future as and when Ashford grew in line with the Government’s plans, for now the services had to be reduced.

A spokesman said: "We are committed to the future of Ashford International. We believe the level of demand from next year will be sufficient to justify the continuation of services to a wide range of destinations that meets the demand of 80 per cent of our passengers."

There was a misconception over the popularity of the Brussels service, he added. "Where there is a misconception it is about the number of people currently going to Brussels. Less than 20 per cent do [and] we expect them to switch to Ebbsfleet simply because it is more convenient."

However, the company said it would now share the findings of its research into passenger use after coming under pressure to release the data.

Ashford MP Damian Green said the delegation had made clear to Eurostar that its plans were not acceptable and that it had an obligation to do its bit to help boost regeneration and investment.

He said: "The point was made that if Eurostar was to be regarded as a proper partner in the regeneration of Ashford and the rest of east Kent, they should not be taking away the Brussels service."

Kent County Council deputy leader Cllr Alex King, also part of the delegation, said Eurostar was sending out the wrong signal.

He said: "Eurostar saw the strength of feeling about its proposals at first hand. We will continue to press a united case with our district colleagues and the MPs for a direct Brussels service from Ashford. Eurostar has agreed to further meetings with a more detailed review of the evidence."

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