Post-Brexit checks leave Paris to Britain Eurostar trains one-third empty

Europe ANPAFPFile
JAN 25, 2023 LISTEN

Cross-Channel train operator Eurostar says that slower post-Brexit passport checks for travellers are forcing it to run some services almost one-third empty.

The cross-Channel route from Paris and from Amsterdam to London is still being held back by the consequences of Brexit, with travellers facing longer passport checks.

British visitors must now have their documents stamped as they arrive and leave the EU, slowing their passage even with UK border points in European stations. EU citizens, meanwhile, have to show they comply with British migration rules.

Eurostar almost went bankrupt in 2021 and Thalys also sought help from its shareholders.

"We cannot offer enough seats because of these station bottlenecks," said Gwendoline Cazenave, chief executive of the new combined group since October last year.

The group has a debt of over €960 million, according to Cazenave.

In 2019, before the twin travel crises of Brexit and the Covid pandemic, the Eurostar and Thalys routes carried 19 million passengers a year.

In 2022, passengers had returned but numbers transported were still lower: the Eurostar cross-Channel service carried 8.3 million passengers and the Thalys high-speed continental service 6.5 million.

"We haven't been able to return to 2019 levels of service because the border crossing is too slow," Cazenave said.

Today there are 14 return trips per day between Paris and London, for example. In 2019 there were between 17 and 18.

And now these smaller number of trains are running part-full.

New logo
The Eurostar Group now includes the Eurostar service from France and Belgium to London and the Thalys services linking Cologne, Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris.

On Tuesday, the group unveiled a new joint logo that will adorn trains on both route networks, along with an ambitious plan to grow to 30 million passengers a year by 2030.

Eurostar almost went bankrupt in 2021 and Thalys also sought help from its shareholders.

Travellers have returned since early 2022 and she said the group had returned to an operating profit in the second half of last year.

Eurostar Group is a holding company based in Brussels, owned 55.75 percent by French state-owned SNCF Voyageurs, 19.31 percent by CDPQ, a Quebec public investment bank, 18.5 percent by Belgian operator SNCB and 6.44 percent by US-based Federated Hermes Infrastructure.

Eurostar was chosen as the name of the new group as it was better known than Thalys outside Europe, Cazenave said.

(With agencies)