Eurostar reaches record traveller numbers thanks to boost from High Speed 1

13 Jan 2009

-- Record 9.1 million travellers carried in 2008 – up 10.3%-- Ticket sales of £664 million – up 10.9%-- Faster journeys, better connections and environmental concern drive demand-- Growth would have been greater but for Channel Tunnel fire
Eurostar, the high-speed passenger train service that links the UK and mainland Europe, achieved record traveller numbers and ticket sales in 2008 following the first full year of operations on High Speed 1.
Passenger numbers broke the nine million barrier for the first time with 9.1 million travellers carried – an increase of 10.3% from 8.26 million in the previous year.
Ticket sales also reached a record level of £664 million, rising by 10.9% from £599 million in 2007. Shorter journey times to Paris and Brussels and the excellent connections offered by St Pancras International are attracting increasing numbers of passengers to switch to high-speed rail.
The results would have been significantly stronger but for the closure of part of the Channel Tunnel following a fire on board a Eurotunnel freight shuttle on 11 September 2008, which continues to cause reductions in services and longer journey times.
The nature of the Eurostar service, in which travellers book up to four months in advance, means sales were significantly affected by the Channel Tunnel incident from September onwards, whereas the subsequent economic downturn had little impact on the year as a whole.
Eurostar continues to achieve high levels of punctuality that outstrip the airline competition, with 92.4% of trains arriving on time or early during 2008. In contrast, the latest available UK arrival/departure punctuality figure for airlines competing on Eurostar's routes is just 65.4% (Jan – Nov 2008, data from Civil Aviation Authority).
Richard Brown, Chief Executive, Eurostar, said: "An increase of nearly a million extra passengers using High Speed 1 during its first year of operations, even with the impact of the tunnel fire, demonstrates beyond doubt that people prefer high-speed rail to short-haul air. They are switching because rail journeys are faster, more punctual, more convenient, and have less environmental impact.
"Whilst reduced tunnel access will affect the first quarter of 2009, we expect to return to a full timetable in the early spring with journey times restored to 1h 51 to Brussels and 2h 15 to Paris once Eurotunnel completes repairs to the Channel Tunnel.
"The uncertainties of the current economic climate reinforce the importance of good value fares and Eurostar's UK lead-in fare remains at £59 return for the sixth year in a row.
"The short-term outlook for 2009 is challenging, but the long-term prospects for Eurostar and high-speed rail are very good. High Speed 1 is fully connected into Europe's fast expanding high-speed network and we expect to see continuing growth in the number of travellers making longer connecting journeys from towns and cities across the UK to Belgium and France, as well as to destinations in the Netherlands and Germany."
***ENDS***
Notes to Editors:
1. Eurostar is the high-speed train service linking St Pancras International, Ebbsfleet International, Ashford International, Paris, Brussels, Lille, Calais, Disneyland Resort Paris, Avignon and the French Alps.
2. A return fare from London to Paris/Brussels costs from just £59. Travellers can also buy through fares to the Continent from 150 towns and cities across the UK, from only £71 return from Brighton to just £92 return from Edinburgh.
3. Eurostar has two intermediate stations in Kent, serving south east England: Ebbsfleet International close to junction 2 of the M25 and Bluewater shopping centre, with frequent services to Brussels and Paris, and with car parking, taxi and Avis car hire facilities. Ashford International, with daily services to Paris, Disneyland Resort Paris, Brussels (from 12 March 2009) and Lille, and seasonal trains to the French Alps and Avignon. Eurostar ticket holders can make connecting journeys to either Kent station for free from anywhere on the Southeastern trains network. They will also be able to connect with Southeastern's high-speed domestic services from December 2009.
4. Under its Tread Lightly environmental plan, Eurostar has set a target of reducing its CO2 emissions by 25% per traveller journey by 2012. Because emissions cannot yet be eliminated, Eurostar is also the world's first train operator to make all journeys carbon neutral, at no extra cost to travellers. Research commissioned by Eurostar has shown that a Eurostar journey between London and Paris/Brussels generates one-tenth of the carbon dioxide of an equivalent flight.
5. Eurostar and Friends of the Earth are working together in the UK on Eurostar's Tread Lightly initiative and The Big Ask, Friends of the Earth's climate campaign. To find out more about Friends of the Earth visit www.friendsoftheearth.co.uk.
6. Eurostar is a founder member of Railteam, a partnership between Europe's leading high-speed train operators that is developing simpler ways to book and travel on the fast-expanding, European high-speed rail network.
7. Eurostar and Eurotunnel are entirely separate companies. Eurostar operates high-speed passenger trains, while Eurotunnel operates vehicle shuttle services and the Channel Tunnel itself. Eurostar is Eurotunnel's biggest customer.
8. To book tickets or for more travel information, please visit www.eurostar.com or call 08705 186 186.
For more information:Eurostar Press Office+44 (0)20 7843 5500press.office@eurostar.co.uk
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