Eurostar is giving itself a birthday present by ordering more new trains to expand its routes.
Twenty years after it started the company that runs passenger services through the Channel tunnel between London, Paris and Brussels is to shell out 380 million euros for an additional seven state-of-the-art trains build by German firm Siemens.
That is on top of the 10 already being delivered as it rides the rails further afield.
Chief executive Nicolas Petrovic told euronews: “From next year we’ll have direct service from London to Lyon, Avignon and Marseille. And the year after we’ll go all the way from London to Amsterdam, in Holland. So, we’ve also got new routes to keep growing our business.”
Industry observers are sceptical about the business sense of that, pointing out that on journeys over two and a half hours passengers tend to favour air travel which has time and price advantages as Eurostar has to pay rail access charges according to the length of the journey.
Eurostar’s boss is confident however saying: “The leisure market in the UK has been performing very well in the past 18 months. There’s a lot more confidence in the UK at the moment, we can see that people are confident, so they’re happy to go for a “city break” or for holidays. On the French and Belgium markets, we can see it’s been actually OK, I mean, we’re still growing on those markets.”
Eurostar is expanding its fleet with those new trains that have 20 percent more seats in preparation for increased competition. Germany’s Deutsche Bahn plans to run services from Frankfurt to London via Brussels, but that is not coming until 2016.
Asked about that Petrovic seemed unconcerned saying: “We welcome the arrival of Deutsche Bahn as a competitor to us across the Channel on the rail. In a way it’s good news because it will raise the awareness that you can actually take high-speed trains across the Channel.”
Eurostar says the extra trains and additional routes will increase the company’s value which should please the British government as it is planning to sell its 40 percent holding.