Eurostar sales hit £168.1 million in first quarter
1.92 million travellers carried
Punctuality of 96% following restoration of full service through the Channel Tunnel
Eurostar, the high-speed passenger train operator between Britain and mainland Europe, achieved sales of £168.1 million in the first three months of 2009, down 5.8% from £178.5 million for the same period last year. Traveller numbers totalled 1.92 million, down 11.5% on 2.17 million last time.
Both sales revenue and traveller numbers were significantly affected by the restrictions on Channel Tunnel capacity following the fire on a Eurotunnel shuttle train last September, and the consequent reduction in Eurostar services. The global economic downturn has also had a particular impact on business traffic with demand reducing and customers down-trading.
However, following the full opening of the tunnel on 23 February, Eurostar was able to resume full promotional campaigns in its three core markets which has already lead to a significant increase in leisure sales. Indeed, set against a challenging economic environment, leisure sales were up 2.2% in a first quarter which had just five weeks of full service operation. In France and Belgium one of the key factors in stimulating travel has been the favourable exchange rate for euro-zone visitors to London and other parts of the UK.
Overall, business sales were down around 20% compared with January to March last year due to the combined affect of the capacity and operating restrictions in the Channel Tunnel and the global recession.
The return to normal operations through the tunnel enabled Eurostar to achieve punctuality of 96% between 23 February and the end of March and compares with an average punctuality of 79% on the air routes with which Eurostar competes.
Richard Brown, Chief Executive, Eurostar, said: "The downturn may be depressing business travel but it is having the opposite effect on the leisure market, with more people wanting to get away from it all to relax, recharge the batteries and spend time with loved ones.
"Our recently commissioned research shows travellers want transparent pricing and good value fares when they're researching leisure breaks. They are fed up with extra charges, and they want the industry to be more honest about the real cost of travel.
"The fares offered on eurostar.com and at Eurostar terminals are all inclusive, with no extra charges for check-in, seat reservations, booking fees or paying with credit cards. In the UK our lead-in return fare of just £59 has remained unchanged since March 2003.
Richard Brown added: "Like other businesses, we must reduce our costs to meet the new economic realities. We are also preparing for the challenges and opportunities of on-rail competition from January 2010. We are determined to continue growing our markets and we will be fully ready to compete head-on with any new competitor on our routes."
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 23 February) 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, which are due to begin later this year.
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 email@example.com