Eurostar leaves hundreds of seats empty to avoid queues at British passport control

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By Luke Hanrahan
Eurostar is intentionally leaving hundreds of tickets unsold because of Brexit.
Eurostar is intentionally leaving hundreds of tickets unsold because of Brexit.   -  Copyright  Euronews

Eurostar is intentionally leaving hundreds of tickets unsold as the operator struggles to deal with the consequences of Brexit.

Since Brexit was finalised, British citizens have had to get their documents stamped when entering the European Union. And EU citizens have to show passport control that they are following the UK’s migration rules when entering the country.

To deal with the bottlenecks caused by these changes, Eurostar has asked passengers to arrive at stations 90 minutes before their train departs, a stark increase from the previous 30 minutes.

And it has capped the number of seats during peak times, leaving capacity 30% lower than in 2019.

As a result, trains from London to Paris or London to Amsterdam are running with nearly one-third of their seats empty.

And some commuters are “frustrated” by the change.

“It’s particularly frustrating when you’re someone who didn’t hope to leave Europe,” Jane Hopkinson, a commuter from London to Paris, said.

“I think it’s really important, especially to my generation, to be able to travel freely. I’m travelling for work today – so it makes a real difference to my ability to do my job in Europe. It’s a real shame.”

Raphael Zurita, a French national commuting from London to Paris, told Euronews that while he can still easily pass through controls when entering the EU, he noticed long queues for his British counterparts.

“The queues are much longer at the passport controls, there’s actually much more separation of people if you have a UK passport versus if you have a European passport, there’s a clear distinction between where you’re going,” he said.

“I have a French passport, so personally, I get through pretty quickly. But I see the UK people spending a lot of time in the queues most times.”

During peak hours, Eurostar will cap its capacity at 700 seats to allow passengers to pass through passport control.

Eurostar trains travelling from Amsterdam to London will only carry 250 passengers, with another 175 boarding en route in Rotterdam.

Eurostar says it’s hoping both the UK and the EU bring in more border police and install more electronic gates to reduce check-in time at the station.

In the meantime, commuters will have to think further ahead to secure a seat.