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."

The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfordshire - £350 - £360

£350 - £360 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfor...

Chief Financial Officer

120-150k: Accountancy Action: We are looking for an experienced CFO from a min...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?