Annual passenger numbers on high-speed Eurostar train services could grow from 8 to 10 million within 3 years when journey times to the continent are slashed in November.
20 minutes will be cut from London to Paris and London to Brussels journeys when the second, and final, section of the £6 billion Channel Tunnel Rail Link opens on 14 November.
On that day, Eurostar’s main London terminal moves from Waterloo station north of the River Thames to St Pancras station.
The completion of the second part of the rail link – from Ebbsfleet in north Kent to St Pancras – will mean London-Paris journey times are reduced to 2 hours 11 minutes, while London-Brussels will fall to 1 hour 51 minutes.
New London terminal
‘We have seen 28% growth in passenger numbers since the first part of the rail link opened in September 2003,’ Eurostar Chief Executive Richard Brown said today.
He went on: ‘We have set a target to increase passenger levels from 8 million a year to 10 million a year within 3 years of the opening of the full link.’
Mr Brown was speaking as the company gave an update on its progress towards the November opening which will see around 1,500 staff moving to St Pancras from Waterloo – Eurostar’s home since the Channel Tunnel opened in 1994.
Eurostar is basing its optimism about passenger levels on the fact that St Pancras is far more convenient for most Britons to reach than Waterloo.
5 days after the move to St Pancras, Eurostar will open the new Ebbsfleet station.
Eurostar is also counting on the accessibility of Ebbsfleet with its proximity to the M25 to aid the passenger growth.
Mr Brown today reiterated his support for a London to Scotland high-speed line which he said would help the shift from air to rail for many travellers who currently fly.
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