Eurostar has cancelled a number of through-trains it had planned to operate year-round between London and south France.
The services in question, which started as recently as this summer, connect London St Pancras with Marseille via Lyon and Avignon.
Although Eurostar planned service reductions during the off-peak months, it blames a lack of demand for not running any services at all.
The cancellations mean no through-trains will operate between mid-January and early March.
In a statement, Eurostar said: “In its first year, our [London to] Lyon-South of France service has been very popular, with strong ticket sales to our new destinations.
“We review all of our services on a regular basis to ensure we are matching our schedule with customer demand, and having looked at the south of France route will be modifying the timetable to reflect this.
“Five return services will not be running in early 2016, and any customers who have already booked onto these will be accommodated onto other services to reach their destinations.
“The cancelled trains are on January 16, 23 and 30, February 27 and March 5.”
But, as with the cancellation of TGV Lyria’s Lille-Geneva service (see news, October 20), critics claim the route should be given more of a chance to settle down.
After all, these south France trains have been operating for only a few months, so far, and airlines consider it takes a couple of years before a route can prove itself.
In fairness to Eurostar, one problem it faces is that its trainsets are too large for certain routes. Each comprises 18 coaches, capable of accommodating 750 passengers, the capacity of roughly two A380s.
It is all down to Channel Tunnel rules and regulations, drawn up many years ago, which specify that only certain train types can operate through the Tunnel.
So these mammoth trainsets don’t offer Eurostar the same flexibility that airlines enjoy with their smaller aircraft. And Eurostar’s new 16-coach e300 Siemens trains (not currently in service) will be no better as these will accommodate 900 passengers.
In other news, Eurostar reports that despite all the disruptions on the French side of the Channel (see news, October 5), its passenger numbers are holding up.
But one wonders if these figures are being flattered by continual seat sales that tend to attract lots of leisure travellers but do little, if anything, for the bottom line.