When trains beat the plane: Eurostar surges as air travel stalls

The high-speed rail link between London and Paris is enjoying a dramatic boost as travellers avoid the logjam at airports.

By Bloomberg News, July 26 2022
When trains beat the plane: Eurostar surges as air travel stalls

Business travelers are filling Eurostar trains that link Britain with continental Europe as airports and airlines scrap thousands of flights amid a staffing crisis.

The Channel Tunnel rail operator noted last week that the number of corporate customers has rebounded to 70% of pre-coronavirus levels, even though it’s still offering only 75% of its 2019 timetable.

“Business travel has resumed faster than we expected,” Chief Commercial Officer Francois Le Doze said in a statement. “We are confident that this trend will continue after the summer.”

Airports in a number of cities served by Eurostar have been left reeling as they struggle to hire workers or grapple with strikes over pay.

London’s Heathrow and Gatwick hubs, together with Amsterdam Schiphol, have abandoned chunks of their planned schedules for the rest of the summer, while Paris Charles de Gaulle, the busiest French airport, has suffered a series of walkouts.

Eurostar already controls 80% of the direct travel market between London and both Paris and Brussels, and is targeting a bigger share on its new Amsterdam route with the introduction of a fourth daily round-trip frequency in September, giving it capacity equal to that of 18 planes.

A Eurostar spokeswoman said the rail operator could easily fill more trains based on current demand but will stick with plans to build up services gradually to avoid the turmoil afflicting the aviation industry.

Moves by businesses to reduce carbon footprints are also driving customers toward Eurostar, according to the rail firm, which says that the number of corporate accounts that it directly manages is now 40% higher than in 2019.

The forthcoming merger of Eurostar International and Belgian railway operator Thalys Group will pave the way for direct  high-speed rail services linking the United Kingdom with Germany.

Under the new Green Speed banner, the  combined network of Eurostar and Thalys would link five countries and see cities in Germany’s mid-northwest including Cologne, Dusseldorf and Dortmund added to the Eurostar network.

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