All aboard the Eurostar! Rail operator to order 50 new trains as it seeks to boost mainland Europe routes

Eurostar chief executive Gwendoline Cazenave (Eurostar)
Eurostar chief executive Gwendoline Cazenave (Eurostar)

Eurostar is looking to expand its services between London and the Continent as it prepares to place an order for up to 50 new trains.

The cross-channel rail operator wants to increase annual passenger numbers from 18.6m last year to 30m by 2030 and is planning to increase the size of its train fleet by 30 per cent by the “early 2030s”.

Eurostar chief executive Gwendoline Cazenave said: “There is huge demand for our services and we have big European ambitions.”

She said this “definitely” included considering launching new routes. At present, Eurostar operates direct services between St Pancras and Paris, Lille, Brussels, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, and connecting services at Brussels into Germany.

“With a new fleet we will study new routes, new European routes . . . I think by the end of the year or early 2025 we will be able to say more,” she told the Financial Times.

The firm, which merged with European rail firm Thalys in 2022, announced €2 billion (£1.72bn) annual revenue for the first time on Thursday. The figure, for 2023, was up 26 per cent on the previous year.

Eurostar said the new trains would increase its fleet from 51 to up to 67. It will retain its 17 e320 trains but retire its e300s, PBKAs, and PBAs.

Only the e320, which has 894 seats, and the e300, which has 750 seats, operate in and out of St Pancras. The PBKAs and PBAs, which belong to Alstom's TGV family of trains, run on continental routes.

A spokesman said no decisions had been made on the manufacturer, and design details were yet to be confirmed.

However the new trains would “set the standards for customer experience and comfort” and the firm would “explore whether the new fleet can be interoperable across the entire Eurostar network”.

Eurostar announced last year that it will continue to run train to Amsterdam this summer after finding a solution to the part-closure of its terminus station in the Dutch capital.

However, from June 15, the frequency of direct services will be reduced from four to three a day, and London-bound passengers will have to change trains at Brussels.

Ms Cazenave told the FT that Eurostar had no plans to reopen Ebbsfleet and Ashford stations in Kent, which closed during the pandemic.

Its footprint at St Pancras and Gare du Nord is due to be expanded over the next five years to create more space for post-Brexit passport checks. New EU biometric checks are due to start in the Autumn.