Eurostar has been facing capacity reductions since the pandemic, with François Le Doze, Eurostar’s commercial director, stating that “a large proportion of trains are restricted” despite huge demand for services.
“It is a pity that we cannot offer enough seats due to the bottleneck in the stations,” Cazenave explains.
“We have [an] great European network. The domestic network is huge and very efficient, so it is essential for us to be very well connected to have an end-to-end customer experience from one city to another. This is our main focus on how we are going to grow.”
Cazenave said it is currently taking 30 percent more time to process passengers due to border controls and passport stamping post-Brexit. Such processing times mean that the train operator is currently selling only 550 of the 900 seats on the first trains of the day from London-Paris, Paris-London and London-Brussels.
To improve the situation, Cazenave noted:
“It doesn’t mean it’s impossible to tackle. We have to make it possible again, but it means we have to be better organised, [with] more police personnel, more investment in automated e-gates (and they don’t work very well).”
“We need to add more cabins and more e-gates at St Pancras and Gare du Nord – the length of the station needs to be adjusted. In Brussels, the problem is that there are large stands, but not enough.”
“We are working hard with the UK Border Force and Police aux Frontieres.”
The CEO remains optimistic about growth, especially as leisure has returned strongly and business travel is back at 80-85 per cent compared to 2019 levels. “There is still the same willingness to travel between the UK and mainland Europe” , she said. “Our job is to make it possible.”
However, Cazenave described the upcoming Entry Exit System (EES) for travelers from non-EU countries as a “major concern for all actors”, with the system likely to increase congestion at stations. The EES was supposed to start in May, but has been officially postponed until the end of the year.
Eurostar also confirmed it is planning a fifth frequency on the London-Amsterdam route in 2024 and that the Thalys fleet is being refurbished, with Cazenave stating that it is growing 10 percent capacity and adding 30 seats to the existing 300 seats.
Many of our readers have expressed concern that Eurostar will no longer stop at Ashford and Ebbsfleet International. When asked when these would return, Cazenave said Business traveler:
“Until we resolve our border issues in London and Paris, we can’t imagine doing that [the services] back.”