Open letter to the British Transport Minister
Dear Mr Harper,
As we face a Climate Emergency, why is it still so difficult and expensive to use Eurostar-the greenest way to travel to and from Europe?
Eurostar has been continually” strangled” ever since its birth when the first train ran through the Channel Tunnel in November 1994. The responsibility for all this clearly lies with the UK Government. This is mainly due to their ideological obsession of privatising all major infrastructure projects. How has this happened?
1 – The track access charges per kilometer that Eurostar has to pay to the owners of the Channel Tunnel have always been set much higher than the average across Europe.
2 – The need for all passengers to go through airport style security before boarding is probably a complete overkill and not really necessary. This is not done anywhere else in Europe for trains going through longer tunnels on land or tunnels going under the sea.
3 – The track access charges per kilometer that Eurostar has to pay to the owners of HS1 in the UK are again 3- 4 times higher than what they pay the French Railways from Calais to Paris.
4 – The UK Government sold off their 40% shareholding of Eurostar in May 2015. When it came to supporting Eurostar during Covid, the UK Government refused financial support for Eurostar, even though this was provided for UK based airlines.
5 – The UK government’s “Hard Brexit” has made the departure process at London St Pancras less pleasant with long queues all around the station. This has got so bad that St Pancras can now probably only cope with 2 trains each hour departing from the station, which is 30% less than before Brexit. Unless they open Stratford International, we may never be able to have any extra trains running to/from Europe.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
At the very least, The UK Government must get the track access charges for HS1 reduced as and when they are set by the Regulator.
At the very least, HS1(the owners of London St Pancras) must draw up and finance a plan to expand the capacity of the station for passengers departing for Europe.
At the very least, introduce “random baggage screening” instead of wasting time by forcing all passengers to have their luggage screened before departure.
And, ideally, convince the UK Government to have a softer Brexit by joining “The European Economic Area”.
Nigel Perkins – Chair European Rail Campaign (UK), which is a part of the Back-on-Track European network.