Eurostar, the cross-channel rail firm, marked its 20th anniversary in 2014 with a notable uptick in both sales and profits. The company, renowned for its high-speed train services, reported a 3% increase in passenger numbers to 10.4 million, bringing the total since its inception in 1994 to over 150 million passengers. Business travel experienced a 4% boost, attributed to the recovery in the UK economy. Overall sales for the year saw a modest 1% rise to £687 million, contributing to a 2% increase in underlying operating profits, totaling £55 million.
Of particular note is Eurostar’s successful launch of a new service to the south of France via Lyon, demonstrating robust demand. The company’s new high-speed e320 trains are set to commence operations by the end of the current year, representing a significant investment exceeding £1 billion. These trains, boasting a capacity of 900 passengers each, a fifth more than the existing trains, are designed for speeds of up to 320 km/h (200 mph), surpassing the current restriction of 300 km/h. It’s worth mentioning that within the Channel tunnel, the trains slow to 160 km/h.
Eurostar’s strategic expansion includes an all-year-round direct service to Avignon and Marseille, scheduled to begin on May 1. The popularity of this new route is evident from the strong demand since ticket sales commenced in mid-December. Return fares for this service start from £99, offering a journey time of under six hours to Avignon and just over six hours to Marseille.
The company’s commitment to enhancing its fleet is underscored by the introduction of 17 new trains over the next three years. These state-of-the-art e320 trains, featuring interiors and external livery designed by Italy’s renowned Pininfarina, known for their work with Ferrari and Maserati, represent a significant advancement. Pininfarina will also be responsible for refurbishing the existing fleet, ensuring a comprehensive upgrade from toilets to buffet bars. With these investments and expansions, Eurostar looks poised to continue its legacy of providing efficient and cutting-edge rail services to passengers across the channel.