Eurostar's Passenger Growth Hits the Buffers; Happier Times: There Was a Razzmatazz Start to Eurostar's St Pancras Switch

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Byline: ROBERT LEA

THE boom on Eurostar since the highspeed train's move to St Pancras has come to a juddering halt.

Eurostar was celebrating carrying 21% more passengers in 2008's first full trading quarter after its move from Waterloo to St Pancras, as customers flocked to use the new service that would get them to Paris in just 2 hours 15 minutes on the 186mph high-speed rail link through Kent.

But with the financial crisis hitting the number of bankers and business people using Eurostar, the collapse of the pound making leisure travellers think twice about heading for the continent, and the September Channel tunnel fire affecting capacity and schedules, Eurostar admitted it recorded no growth in passenger numbers in the last three months of 2008 compared to the last quarter of 2007.

"We have no doubt that things have become more challenging for 2009 and that hitting our target of carrying 10 million passengers in 2010 has become more difficult," said Eurostar chief executive Richard Brown.

Eurostar, the monopoly continental high-speed passenger train service, carried a total of 9.1 million passengers in 2008, growth of 10.3% from 2007.

However, detailed quarterly figures reveal that almost all of that growth came in the first half of the year.

The 4.6 million passengers carried in the first six months of the year represented growth of around fifth on the comparable first half of 2007. By the fourth quarter, the 2.1 million passengers carried by Eurostar was flat year on year.

The fall-off in business class passengers in the last few months has hit Eurostar's finances. Ticket sales for the year came in at [pounds sterling]664 million, up 10. …