Eurostar Presntation, Ashford 4th October



This presentation was organised by CILT (UK) (Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK); we thank them for allowing the attendance of representatives of SHRIMP, OTG and BRAG rail user groups and their hospitality. We paid our own expenses.

Eurostar (ES) was represented by Pierre Delalande giving an overview of ES past, present & future.

ES confirmed their long term commitment to ASHFORD INT’L, advising that Ashford will regain a third train to/from Paris next summer as promised, when the signalling upgrade (the ‘Ashford Spurs’ project*) is completed.

An Amsterdam service is the big project that ES are focussed on. It will start commercially around spring 2018, but with a promotional launch at end of this year. Service will operate with 2 trains per day. It is not projected to call at Ashford, but ES is open to a business case for this in the future.
London > Amsterdam has 4 million air passengers a year, same as London > Paris in 1994, though ES are not expecting to see such a high level of market penetration. Their initial focus will be on journey times.

Other possible destinations (that have been reported in the media) such as Cologne (too small) or Bordeaux (high track access charges and slow detour round Paris) are not under active consideration. The passenger numbers don’t stack up in terms of extra costs/revenue.

Extensions to new destinations can be technically complex, cost more and generate less revenue the further they run. Frankfurt is not viable because of airline competition.
A trans-manche ‘metro’ service calling all stations has been examined but ruled out due to low potential passenger numbers; emphasis is always on end-to-end journey times.
However, ES are looking to improve connections, notably at Lille & Brussels.

More generally:

The old trains have terrible reliability, typically only around 50%; these are the only trains that can (currently) operate with Ashford stopping.
The new Siemens (Class 374/e320) trains are twice as reliable. Faults can be reported real-time enabling time to be saved at the depot. They also have better ambience and more onboard services.

This is a high-cost, small profit margin business. On a £100 fare, around £55 goes to the infrastructure operators (HS1/Network Rail, Eurotunnel, SNCF Reseau and Infrabel).
This explains the small difference in cost between longer vs shorter journeys.

ES has lost money in recent years due to a succession of unfortunate events such as migrants at Calais, strikes, a 2 day Channel Tunnel closure, and mainland terrorist attacks.

Paris is the main destination. 75% of all traffic London > Paris is now by train.
The market remains sensitive to price/reliability. About 60% of traffic is discretionary or leisure.
Operations are impacted by space constraints at main city terminals.
ES is not ever likely to serve Stratford, or run north of London or run sleeper services.

Ashford is seen as a strong leisure market, whilst Ebbsfleet carries more business users. The passenger count is roughly equal at both stations.

* Ashford Spurs is required to allow the new trains to operate on the domestic lines in/out of Ashford. They were built with only European signalling capabilities (well, the vast majority of running is on that system). The project is going well, on track for completion spring 2018.

SHRIMP (St Leonards & Hastings Rail Improvement)
OTG (Ore Transport Group)
BRAG (Bexhill Rail Action Group)

October 2017.