Eurostar's revenues hit hard by the pound

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Eurostar, the cross-Channel train operator, yesterday revealed a fall in annual revenue as the global recession and the US terrorist attacks combined to deter passengers.

The loss-making group was hit hardest by a decline in tourists coming from the Continent to Britain because of the strength of the pound and the foot-and-mouth crisis.

David Azema, Eurostar's chairman, estimated the total loss for 2001 came out at just under £100m while revenue in the 12 months to 31 December declined by 0.7 per cent to £426.2m. The chairman conceded that the company was reviewing its forecast of reaching break-even by the end of 2003.

Mr Azema, however, said he was confident that growth would resume over the next year when management hopes to offer new incentives and cut journey times.

Passenger sales volumes fell by 3 per cent to 7.469 million compared with 7.664 million in 2000 and the French, Belgian and British operations all continued to be unprofitable.

Trains through the tunnel between England and France carried 2.53 million passenger vehicles in 2001 – 9 per cent less that the year before. Passengers on high-speed Eurostar trains linking London and Paris and Brussels fell 3 per cent to 6.94 million.

The group, which is run by the state railways of France and Belgium and the Eurostar UK consortium including British Airways and National Express, said the number of Britons travelling to France and Belgium on Eurostar trains increased.

Mr Azema said: "It was a tough year, but it has actually made us more confident about the future."