Eurostar fares in UK a fifth higher in UK

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BRITISH EUROSTAR passengers are charged up to 20 per cent more than their continental counterparts, Eurostar admitted yesterday.

The discrepancy was revealed as MPs vowed to investigate the fares policy of British Airways, which has meant some UK customers paying nearly twice as much as passengers living on the Continent.

A Eurostar standard leisure return ticket from London Waterloo to Brussels costs pounds 129, yet rail passengers from Belgium are charged only pounds 108 for the equivalent journey. The French pay pounds 14 less on a similar trip from Paris.

A Eurostar spokeswoman, Deborah Aspin, said: "It is about making the fares attractive and setting the fares according to market conditions. Prices are set according to the price of corresponding flights in the different cities we serve."

The chairman of the Trade and Industry Select Committee, Martin O'Neill, condemned British Airways for charging national customers up to 190 per cent more than other Europeans for some long-haul flights. A club class BA ticket to Los Angeles would cost a British passenger pounds 4,988 - while a Swiss customer can book the same seat for pounds 1,722.

A spokesman for BA said the airline had to offer lower prices if it wanted to attract European passengers to make direct journeys - a common practice in the industry. Airline experts said BA charges European customers less because the cost of long-haul tickets is substantially lower on the Continent.

A spokesman for the Air Transport Users' Council said: "The reason is that capacity at Heathrow is constrained and BA therefore does not face the full force of competition there."