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Eurostar rules out cutbacks plan U-turn

EUROSTAR says it is too late to reprieve services that it plans to axe from Ashford International station.

The blunt message was delivered by Eurostar's finance chief to county councillors on Monday and comes as the company prepares to reveal later this week its timetable for the entire range of services that will run from both Ebbsfleet and Ashford from November.

Finance director Ian Nunn told a meeting of Kent County Council’s cabinet it was now too late to re-instate either the direct service to Brussels or any of the other Paris trains that will disappear from Ashford once Ebbsfleet International opens.

But he did promise the company would keep the situation under review and, if in the future it appeared there was a demand from passengers for more services from Ashford, they could be re-introduced.

The news that nothing can now be done to save services from Ashford is a bitter blow to a campaign that has seen overwhelming support to maintain the direct Brussels service.

Edith Robson, who has been collecting thousands of signatures on a petition to save Ashford services, also addressed county councillors and accused Eurostar of "trying to sell radishes to customers when they really want roses".

She said many passengers would face a five-hour round-trip to get to and from Ebbsfleet from east Kent and Sussex.

She said: "If you try to sell people radishes when they want roses, they will take their business elsewhere. Eurostar’s assumption seems to be that if you get in a car to drive, then you might as well drive to Ebbsfleet."

She also attacked the company's promotion of Ebbsfleet, saying if as much effort had gone into publicising Ashford there would be no need to axe services.

"Why destroy something which has not really been promoted just to bolster something which is untried and untested?"

But Mr Nunn, who faced sustained questioning during the meeting at County Hall, said: "It is too late for November 19. [But] there is no reason why a service should not begin again.

"We do not rule it out. If the demand is there, then of course we can re-instate stops and we do review the timetable in a six-monthly basis."

* For more reports on Eurostar's plans and its new timetable, see this Thursday's Kentish Express.

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