Eurostar is celebrating over 20% growth in passenger numbers in 2023, with a total of 18.6 million people welcomed aboard over the year across the five countries it serves.
A win for customers and the planet
The boom in figures represents a return to pre-Covid-19 sales for the rail company. All three of its main routes into London St Pancras saw an increase. The Amsterdam line was up by the greatest amount, at 38%, while 33% more passengers were carried on the Brussels route than in 2022, and Paris was up by a quarter for the year.
“Eurostar is growing”, said chief executive Gwendoline Cazenave, adding that the operator’s primary aim is “to encourage more people to take the train so it’s a win for customers and a win for the planet.”
Difficult few weeks
After a difficult few weeks, dogged by strikes, floods, and ensuing delays and cancellations, as well as a reputational blow in the shape of a slap on the wrist by the UK’s advertising watchdog, for misrepresenting a supposed promotional ticket sale, the hike in yearly passenger numbers will come as a relief.
It’s a positive way to start 2024, which promises to be another bumper (and perhaps bumpy year). Two million passengers are expected to book with Eurostar for the Paris Olympics and Paralympic Games coming up in the summer, which should help the company reach towards its targets. It needs to almost double its current numbers if it wants to hit the goal it has set itself.
Bold vision for a monopoly?
“We have a bold vision to reach 30 million passengers by 2030,” Cazenave said, noting that “growth in 2023 of 22 per cent versus 2022 shows we are strongly on our way.”
At the moment of course, there’s no competition for Eurostar on the Channel routes, so boasting about “almost eight million passengers between London and France, 1.1 million between the Netherlands and the UK, and 2.2 million to Belgium” may ring a little hollow in some listeners ears.
That effective monopoly might be set to change though. Last year saw the strongest rumours in years about other rail franchises about to challenge Eurostar on its own territory.
Evolyn is one of them. Owned by a mystery consortium of French and British backers, who have been described to Reuters as “industrialists and investment funds, as well as financiers, and long-standing railway professionals, and international funds interested in the project,” Evolyn made moves to buy up a dozen Alstom trains for the cross-Channel route.
Richard Branson’s Virgin trains has also been discussed as a party interested in breaking up Eurostar’s thirty year solo operator privilege.