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Eurostar's uncertain future at Ashford and Ebbsfleet a major concern, stress Kent County Council members


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Concerns have been raised that Eurostar services may never restart in Kent.

County councillors have voiced their fears about the high-speed railway company's plans to suspend trains running to Europe via Ashford and Ebbsfleet until 2022.

Eurostar trains have been stopping at Ashford for years
Eurostar trains have been stopping at Ashford for years

Eurostar said it has "not taken the decision lightly". It saw bookings drop by 90% since lockdown. In March, the rail operator said it would not be pulling Kent services.

For Kent travellers, it means a trip to London St Pancras station is necessary to cross The Channel.

Earlier today, KCC leader Roger Gough said Eurostar's delayed return is a "vital issue" which needs to be addressed quickly, while opposition leaders have also voiced their concern.

Cllr Martin Whybrow (Green), KCC's Green party leader said: "The fear would be that they may never again stop at Ebbsfleet or Ashford."

The comments came during a virtual meeting of Maidstone County Hall's full council where councillors were told an urgent meeting is due to take place tomorrow about this unfolding issue.

Eurostar' future in Kent is very uncertain
Eurostar' future in Kent is very uncertain

Mike Cooper, who has been the chief executive of Eurostar since 2018, will explain the worrying situation to Kent MPs and councillors after receiving a large amount of correspondence from locals expressing their anxieties.

Those expected at the meeting include Dartford MP Gareth Johnson, Ashford MP Damian Green, Ashford Borough Council leader Cllr Gerry Clarkson (Con), and the chair of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, Christian Brodie.

Cllr Gough, who will also be in attendance during the virtual conference, said: "I think many of us would understand and appreciate there are pressures on that service as there are on so many forms of transport.

"The concern that there is such a long period of not using Ebbsfleet and Ashford is a major cause for concern.

"The implication that might ultimately not result in reopening at any stage is one we shall be seeking assurances to say that is not the case."

"Such a long period of not using Ebbsfleet and Ashford is a major cause for concern..."

Cllr Rob Bird (Lib Dem), KCC's main opposition leader, said he was "most disappointed" by the train operator's announcement.

He said: "This may be understandable in the current situation but KCC should be pressing Eurostar to restore their connections as soon as viable in 2021."

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons that the withdrawal of the Eurostar service in Kent left the county in a "perilous position".

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has also agreed that officials should get round the table with Eurostar.

However, Cllr Gough has paid tribute to the Eurostar executives for being "open" and "proactive" in their engagement with officials.

Concluding, the Sevenoaks county councillor said: "I look forward to reporting back on our conversation."

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