It seems the fall in demand in travel has forced Eurostar’s hand, with the UK – Europe train operator suspending stopping services in Kent.
Both Ebbsfleet International (serving North Kent, Essex and the M25 area) and Ashford International (serving South Kent) will not be served by Eurostar until 2022. Domestic operations (operated by SouthEastern High Speed) will continue.
This is due to forward bookings being down by 90%.
As such, the only UK destination Eurostar will serve is London St Pancras. Passengers from Kent will need to head back into London, then change trains, then travel to France, Belgium or The Netherlands.
Whilst the three-capitals services are important, Eurostar offered some regional connectivity for those on the High Speed 1 line that links St Pancras to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. It seems that the downturn in traffic has forced the train operators hand and not serve the destinations.
In a statement, Eurostar said:
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.
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.
TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has urged the Government to intervene, in fear of job losses. He comments:
“We will do all we can to work with the company to protect jobs, but we must see meaningful discussions for our members about options for those working at these two stations.
“Frankly the extended closure of Ashford and Ebbsfleet is another clear sign that Eurostar needs help from the UK Government – something I called for months ago.
“Ministers can’t be allowed to sit on the sidelines – they must act now. The Transport Secretary and Chancellor simply have to step up to the plate and give Eurostar the proper support package it badly needs so that it can keep going under the present circumstances.
“Eurostar provides a green strategic link between Britain and our European neighbours, retaining these jobs and services will significantly increase the chances of Eurostar being on a firm footing as services return to near normal in the months ahead.”
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