Published: 14:42, 03 September 2020
| Updated: 21:17, 03 September 2020
Eurostar trains will not stop in Kent until 2022, it has been announced.
But now bosses say their high-speed trains will not return to either station until 2022 - sparking job losses and disruption for passengers travelling to or from Europe.
Ashford MP Damian Green said he was told about the decision this morning.
"This is clearly very bad news," he told KentOnline.
"They say they are not going to reopen the stations this year or in 2021.
"I am now getting on to the Transport Secretary to see if there is anything the government can do - it is a blow for Kent."
For Kent travellers, it means a trip to London St Pancras is necessary to cross The Channel.
Mr Green added: "Frankly, as long as the quarantine is on it is not going to make that much difference as not that many people are travelling.
"But what I will question when I speak to Eurostar is why it won't return for such a long period.
"The earlier it returns the better."
Mr Green says the success of a previous campaign which saw the cancellation of a service overturned does offer hope.
"About 10 years ago, Eurostar withdrew the Brussels service from Ashford but I fought with Ashford Borough Council and Kent County Council to get that back and eventually they did," he added.
"Everyone had assumed that was impossible; it shows it can be done, but this is going to be a long, hard battle."
In a statement, Eurostar says it has "not taken this decision lightly".
A spokeswoman said: "Covid-19 has had a severe impact on the travel industry and on our business and we continue to operate in very challenging conditions.
"We have experienced an unprecedented fall in demand, with bookings down by 90% compared to last year.
"We will now start consultations with the unions"
"The environment remains very unpredictable and has been exacerbated by quarantine restrictions which are now across all of our markets.
"Given the uncertain outlook, it is crucial that we adapt and take action to reduce our costs so that we protect our business for the future.
"In 2021, therefore, we will reduce our timetable focusing only on our core routes and destinations where we see the highest demand.
"As a result, we have had to make the very difficult decision not to reopen Ashford International or Ebbsfleet International stations before 2022.
"We have not taken this decision lightly and have given this considerable thought, but given the severity of the situation we have to take action.
"Following this morning’s announcement, we will now start consultations with the unions which will be followed by individual consultations with any colleagues who may be impacted."
"We were not consulted in advance"
Mike Whiting, Kent County Council's cabinet member for economic development, says the authority "very much regrets the decision".
"Eurostar is a commercial company owned by European shareholders and we were not consulted in advance," he said.
"Clearly, these services are an important economic driver for Kent and we hope that trading conditions will improve and Eurostar will change its mind on this, particularly because the domestic railway network in Kent is increasing its capacity and running a normal timetable."
Before Covid-19 hit, up to two daily services to Paris and one to Brussels ran from Ashford.
At Ebbsfleet, five services were offered to Paris and three to Belgium.