Air travel troubles benefit Eurostar

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Eurostar enjoyed its best year yet in 2006 as the increasing stress of air travel and the damage it does to the environment persuaded more business travellers to switch to the high-speed rail service to Paris and Brussels.

A record 7.85 million passengers travelled on Eurostar - 5 per cent up on the previous year - while sales rose nearly 12 per cent to top £500m for the first time.

A spokesman said that an estimated 1,000 business passengers a week were switching from plane to train because of increased airport security and the general hassle of air travel.

He also said the environmentally friendly nature of rail was of growing importance to big corporate customers such as banks and multinationals who were looking to cut their carbon emissions. Research carried out by Eurostar shows that someone travelling by rail from London to Paris produces a tenth of the carbon of an airline passenger.

"Many more travellers are being attracted by the environmental benefits of using high-speed rail instead of short-haul air," said Richard Brown, Euro-star's chief executive.

Eurostar expects the completion in November of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link into St Pancras, the opening of a new station at Ebbsfleet in Kent and events such as the Rugby World Cup in France to increase passengers to 8 million this year. It is forecasting a further 25 per cent rise in traffic numbers to 10 million by 2012.

Sales last year rose from £464m to £518m, helped by a 17 per cent increase in business passengers. Punctuality also improved, from 86 per cent to 91.5 per cent.