Home   Ashford   News   Article

Eurostar urged to re-think decision to suspend stopping services at Ashford and Ebbsfleet

Eurostar could face new rivals to provide high speed services across the Channel after Eurotunnel said it was prepared to offer a subsidy of £50m to help other operators run trains.

The subsidy would be paid after rival consortiums got new services underway, according to a report in the Financial Times.

There are calls for Eurostar to resume stopping services at Kent stations
There are calls for Eurostar to resume stopping services at Kent stations

The prospect of new services comes amid reports that a number of companies are said to be interested in setting up consortiums to run trains.

According to the FT, Yann Leriche, Getlink chief executive - the parent company of Eurotunnel - said at least five companies were “seriously” interested in starting new passenger trains between the UK and Europe.

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, a consortium backed by the largest shareholders in Mobico, formerly known as National Express, and Dutch start-up Heuro have all said they are considering launching services.

The tunnel has the capacity to run 1,000 trains daily but currently about 400 trains a day use it – below the forecasts when the tunnel was opened 30 years ago.

It could help the case for trains to once again stop at Ashford and Ebbsfleet, which Eurostar has suspended indefinitely because too few passengers were using them and post-Covid, numbers slipped.

Cllr Roger Gough wants to see the two Kent international stations utilised once again. Picture: KCC
Cllr Roger Gough wants to see the two Kent international stations utilised once again. Picture: KCC

Eurostar Group, formed through the merger of Eurostar and Thalys in May 2022, reported turnover of €1.53bn for 2022, two and half times higher than the figure for 2021.

It comes as the leader of Kent County Council (KCC) has renewed a call for Eurostar to take another look at the arguments for bringing back stopping services at the two international stations.

Cllr Roger Gough said the company needed to acknowledge significant sums of taxpayers’ money had been invested in the stations on the presumption they would be key to increasing the county’s economy, drawing in new businesses and aiding regeneration.

The county council recently revealed the results of a survey showing a significant number of small and medium-sized businesses believed Kent was losing out after Eurostar said it would suspend stopping services indefinitely.

Cllr Gough said: “This is very important for Kent and it's also an area where there's been a huge amount of public money that has gone into ensuring that there is that capability again.

The empty side of Ashford International
The empty side of Ashford International

“This is very much a matter for Eurostar - or some other operator - and we have been making the argument that as we head into the new ‘exit and entry system for travellers from outside the EU, there is a strong argument for redeploying those stations.”

But he accepted that was not probable given the timing: “I think it's pretty clear from all that Eurostar have said that this is not something that they are reconsidering in the short term as they are very focused on EES (Entry Exit System) checks and the Olympics.

“There are a number of operators who say they are interested in coming in which actually makes it easier to have more competition on that line but it's not going to happen overnight but potentially over the next few years you could well see that happen.”

Asked if he felt that Eurostar had an obligation to provide some services using the two stations, he said: “You can understand why they did it during the pandemic. They had massive financial and commercial pressure.”

But he said the introduction of new ‘exit and entry’ arrangements - which could lead to significant delays - could be partially addressed by redeploying the mothballed stations.

Eurostar hasn’t stopped in Kent since the pandemic
Eurostar hasn’t stopped in Kent since the pandemic

Anybody who had travelled on international services knew “how difficult and crowded St Pancras gets and therefore with this additional pressure we believe there is a strong argument for redeploying in terms of those additional stations.”

KCC was talking to “other players” who had expressed an interest in running international services.

A Spanish Consortium named ‘Evolyn’ revealed last year that it was to buy 12 high speed trains and run non-stop services from London to Paris.

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More