'New High Speed operators won't pressure Eurostar'

Eurostar train
Eurostar train

by business editor Trevor Sturgess

Don't expect the £2.1bn sale of the high-speed line through Kent to influence whether international trains stop in the county.

That's the message from rail expert Sim Harris.

The managing editor of Rail News poured cold water on hopes that Borealis Infrastructure and Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, a Canadian consortium that will run High Speed One for the next 30 years, will push operators like Eurostar and DB German Railways to stop at Ashford and Ebbsfleet.

Announcing the sale, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond claimed it would mean more stops. But Mr Harris said it would make no difference.

"The impact at passenger level will be pretty minimal. How on earth this transfer of a concession can mean different station stops is beyond me.

"Can you honestly say there will be a buoyant market from Ashford to Frankfurt?

"The infrastructure manager will not be putting pressure on operators to stop. I can't see it's anything but business as usual."

But Paul Wookey, chief executive of Locate in Kent, the inward investment agency, is keen to see trains to and from Germany stopping in the county.

The agency promotes Kent to German firms as a great place to grow their business and take advantage of the British market.

Kent County Council, which is the agency's principal paymaster, has pledged to fight for new international services to stop in the county.

Borealis and its partners pipped the Eurotunnel/Goldman Sachs group to win the concession from the publicly-owned London and Continental Railways.

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