Eurostar makes cutbacks

15 Oct 2016 by Alex McWhirter

A few days after we reported on Eurostar’s plans for Amsterdam comes news that the train operator is poised to make cutbacks.

Staff numbers are being trimmed at the train firm which is mostly owned by France’s SNCF.   The number of trains operating between London, Paris and Brussels will be slightly reduced.

The news should not come as a surprise.

Why? Because at the very end of last week’s news piece, we quoted Eurostar CEO Nicholas Petrovik as saying that, over the past six months, passenger numbers had fallen by 3 per cent but, more seriously, revenue had declined by 8 per cent. (See online news October 12)

Eurostar remains on track for Amsterdam by the end of 2017

For a train company used to almost continual growth during its 22 year history, it’s a worrying development.

First indications of the cutbacks emerged from the TSSA union, details of which appeared in Railway Gazette.

Passenger numbers have fallen in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Brussels and Paris.  Revenue has declined because, following the terror attacks, Eurostar had to market several seat sales in order to attract passengers.

Eurostar told Railway Gazette, “This is a challenging environment for all travel companies and we need to manage our costs very carefully.  That’s why we are looking at the size and shape of our business.”

And the falling passenger numbers did not solely concern Europeans.

They also take into account the many American and Asian travellers who use Eurostar to bridge the gap (between London, Paris and Brussels) when visiting Europe.

Unlike the airlines (who can change the size of their aircraft) Eurostar is hampered by its trainsets.  The original Alstom ones accommodated 750 passengers and the new Siemens trains carry a maximum of 900.

That equates to just one trainset having a passenger load of almost two A380 super jumbos.

The trains cannot be shortened if demand were to fall.  Channel Tunnel rules dictate the size and design of the Eurostar trainsets.

And now it seems that, with the order for 17 Siemens trains still unfulfilled (11 have so far been delivered), Eurostar will soon have too much capacity for its needs.

That explains why the train operator is taking the drastic step to scrap almost all its original Alstom trains over the next four years.

Eurostar to scrap trainsets

It’s likely Eurostar will make some adjustments in December when the winter timetable comes into effect.  Business Traveller will update you as soon as we know.

Eurostar’s provisional Amsterdam schedules leaked:

No sooner had we told you about Eurostar’s plans for Amsterdam came news of the possible schedules.

Details were leaked by Belgium’s OV Magazine and at this point we must stress that these timings have yet to be agreed by four railway administrations (Holland, Belgium, France and the UK) so there may be some changes.

But it is certain that Monday-Friday schedules will see two trains in each direction and will be suitable for business travellers.  Schedules on Saturday and Sunday vary.

From Monday to Friday, the morning train will depart London at 08.04 arriving into Amsterdam at 12.54 with the late afternoon train departing at 17.04 to terminate (in Amsterdam) at 21.54.

UK-bound trains will depart Amsterdam at 07.48 and 16.48 to arrive into London at 10.57 and 19.57.

All timings are local.  En route stops will be at Brussels, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport.

But note that the plan is not to stop in Antwerp on the Amsterdam-London service.  Also note that Eurostar prefers to have the UK border checks undertaken at Brussels Midi rather than Lille.

Rail experts believe that 28 mins at Brussels Midi is insufficient time to clear a heavily booked train (like around 800 passengers) through UK border controls.

We await developments.

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