Should Eurostar lose its monopoly? – Business Traveller

I have been reporting on Eurostar for 30 years and never before have I seen this train operator unable to cope with demand (outside Christmas and New Year).

Last week I reported on the issues affecting European aviation and wrote that the rail industry (especially new entrants) was standing by to solve the former’s failures.

Since then matters have taken a turn for the worst.

At least two operators are struggling to meet demand as customers desert aviation. I refer to Eurostar and Thalys, which are now one company.

In the coming days Thalys has few seats available on its high frequency services Amsterdam-Brussels-Paris Nord.

Eurostar is swamped with customers. Check eurostar.com now and you will see that most trains from London to Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels are fully booked (in all classes) until well into next week.

Indeed in the next few days almost all trains are fully booked.

Any vacant seats are likely to be for Business Premier whose one-way prices (at the time of writing) are £275 for Paris, £276 for Brussels and £299 for Amsterdam.

Clearly more capacity is needed, but Thalys is short on capacity. It has received no additional trains since the late 1990s.

Conversely Eurostar has spare capacity.

The situation is critical with London-Amsterdam where Eurostar’s fourth service is needed right now but is not launching until September.

Since 2018 Channel Tunnel operator Getlink (formerly Eurotunnel) has sought more competition for Eurostar.

In 2018 Getlink suggested a ‘lite’ Eurostar similar to SNCF’s Ouigo (SNCF is the majority owner of Eurostar/Thalys).

Eurostar ‘light’ option feasible for London-Paris

More recently Getlink proposed buying new trains which would be leased to a new operator. This might be Spain’s Renfe which wants to break Eurostar’s Paris-London monopoly.

Getlink’s director Jacques Gounon said:

“Eurostar is very good but it suffers from not having competition.”

So far Getlink’s suggestions have fallen on deaf ears.

Eurostar has scrapped most of its Alstom units and only a handful remain.

As ALLRAIL (who represents new rail entrants) notes:

“Shame that so many of these [Alstom] trainsets have been scrapped unnecessarily in recent years.”

It goes on to say:

“[This was] in order to reduce Channel Tunnel rolling stock availability for independent operators.”

Only certain trains can use the Tunnel. All of these are owned by Eurostar. That demonstrates the extent of the problem.

eurostar.com ; thalys.com

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