Eurostar has officially launched its SmartCheck biometric gates for Business Premier and Carte Blanche customers at London’s St Pancras International Station.
The contactless pre-departure gates, which have been trialled since the end of 2021, are now live for all premium passengers and will expedite the pre-boarding process by eliminating the need for manual passport checks to exit the UK.
Instead, eligible passengers can use the SmartCheck lanes located at the far end of the departure hall, where advanced biometric face-scanning technology, developed by tech company iProov, will confirm passenger details in less than two seconds.
Passengers will then proceed through bag security checks as normal, and will still need to complete one passport check by the French border control before heading to the lounge or boarding the train.
How does it work?
In order to use the SmartCheck lanes, travellers will need to download the iProov app and complete the registration process, which can be done at home.
This is a fairly quick and simple process, which involves using your smartphone to scan your face, upload a photo, and scan the chip in your passport. Passengers are only required to complete this process once and their information will be stored for future journeys.
Once registration is complete, barcodes on tickets can then be scanned via your smartphone and will be linked to your biometric data for contactless departure from the UK.
Speaking at the launch, Eurostar Group’s CEO Gwendoline Cazenave said SmartCheck is one part of the group’s overall efforts to improve capacity and efficiency. “SmartCheck is going to make the customer experience much more seamless, more pleasant, and reduce waiting times for Business Premier and Carte blanche passengers”.
“The second step is to add more staff and police border forces, which is ongoing. And the third thing is to improve organisation of traffic flow at the station with things like e-gates, which we have invested in. So it’s not just about SmartCheck but it’s an important part of the solution to improve the customer experience and grow the station capacity.”
Earlier this year, Eurostar reported it was operating with a capacity reduction of 30 per cent (meaning about 250 seats per train were not being sold) as a result of ongoing pressures from Covid and bottlenecks at stations. According to Cazenave this has improved greatly now thanks to ongoing measures, with caps down to 5 per cent (or about 50 seats per train).
For now, the SmartCheck is limited to Business Premier and Carte Blanche passengers at London’s St Pancras. The live trial will be reviewed and analysed in the autumn, and the group will consider extending the technology to regular passengers and/or other stations and border control partners.
Cazenave said the hope is to use the launch of the SmartCheck gates as a showcase to prove to EU border authorities and other stakeholders that seamless, contactless border crossing is possible.
This is particularly relevant ahead of the Entry/Exit System (EES) due to come into force next year. “The EES is going to put even more pressure on the system because we have to set up 24 kiosks at St Pancras for pre-registration for non-EU customers”, said Cazenave. “So this is also about showing that it is possible – it’s not science fiction, it’s now.”