Eurostar credits move to St Pancras for boosting ticket revenues by 25 per cent

Five months ago, Eurostar executives were toasting the rail operator's successful move from Waterloo to St Pancras at the elegant champagne bar in its new terminal. They no doubt broke out the bubbly again yesterday after reporting record passenger numbers and revenues for the first three months of the year – as customers flock to the high-speed cross-Channel service which promotes itself as the eco-friendly transport of choice.

Eurostar ticket sales leapt by 25 per cent to £178.4m between January and March – the group's first full quarter since the big move across London. Passenger traffic rose 21 per cent to 2.17 million, while punctuality hit an all-time high of 93.6 per cent.

Nick Mercer, Eurostar's commercial director, said the figures were better than expected and the group was on course to hit its target of 10 million customers within two years. Last year, 8.3 million people went to the Continent by train.

One key factor in Eurostar's rising popularity, Mr Mercer added, was the increased speed of its trains, which now travel from London to Paris in two hours and 15 minutes and to Belgium in less than two hours. "The service has brought the two cities closer together," he said. "We call it the 'two-hour club'. Psychologically, people feel Paris and Brussels are now more on their doorstep."

The move to St Pancras had greatly improved access for travellers from across Britain, Mr Mercer said. Other reasons for the excellent sales figures were the early Easter and the Rugby World Cup in France.

Eurostar often markets itself as the best mode of travel for a romantic getaway in Paris, but Mr Mercer said it was also seeing customers fall out of love with air travel. "There used to be a romance about travelling," he added. "At airports now it is a very mundane and complicated process. We still hope to offer a service where the travelling is part of the excitement."

Another issue adversely affecting airlines is the environment, as passengers look for cleaner alternatives to short-haul flights. According to Eurostar, independent research has shown that flying between London and Paris generates ten times as much carbon dioxide as the same journey by train.

Public concern about the environment was highlighted by a YouGov survey of 2,200 adults this month. It found more than half had concerns about environmental impact when planning a journey of up to 400 miles. A third said environmental concerns about short-haul journeys had become more important to them than a year ago.

Eurostar pushes its green credentials with a "Tread Lightly" programme, launched in 2006, and its partnership with Friends of the Earth. It aims to cut its CO2 emissions by 25 per cent by 2012, and said yesterday it had made "good progress" towards that goal in its first year.

The idea of boring a tunnel between France and England was first mooted by Napoleon but the project did not begin in earnest until 1987. Eurostar ran its first test train through the Channel Tunnel in June 1993 and opened for business in November the following year. It now has 27 services from Britain to destinations in France and Belgium.

Well-publicised problems have beset the Channel Tunnel owner Eurotunnel, and Eurostar has faced difficulties of its own. Its complex management structure, covering three countries, can be tricky. It was initially owned by British Rail, the state-owned SNCF in France and its Belgian counterpart SNCB. Following the privatisation of British Rail, Eurostar's UK interests were sold to London & Continental Railways in 1996. Each partner runs the service in its own territory, but in September 1999 the group realised it needed a single management team to grow and established the Eurostar Group.

It also has substantial financial obligations. Nigel Harris, the managing editor of Rail Magazine, said Eurostar was paying "extremely heavy" charges to run its fleet and infrastructure but said it had performed well – particularly since the management shake-up in 2003.

He added: "Eurostar has a good fast, punctual and reliable service. It is a real success. Give people the choice when the journey times are similar and they will take the train every time."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Foreign Exchange Dealer - OTE £40,000+

£16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Foreign Exchange Dealer is re...

SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea