Campaign to return Eurostar to Kent continues as resident says ‘I won’t use it until it stops in Ashford’

People want Eurostar services to stop in Kent
-Credit: (Image: PA)

The potential return of the Eurostar to Kent has remained a hot talking point over the years, with some residents saying they will not use the rail service until it stops in Ashford. The borough council has continued to campaign, claiming it will continue its fight until the services return to town.

The leader of Ashford Borough Council, Cllr Noel Ovenden, said the services are not only important for existing businesses and travellers but also important for the town’s future commercial investments. Following the closure of Ashford and Ebbsfleet stations for the Eurostar in March 2020, the company said it would remain closed throughout 2024 and 2025.

Cllr Ovenden said: “There was a public outcry when Eurostar made their initial announcement and the local strength of feeling is clearly reflected by recent meetings and the petition that has been launched, which we welcome. The prospect that Eurostar is not likely to return anytime soon represents a real challenge for those residents and businesses that rely on the service and those that work locally.

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“Ashford is an important economic driver for not only Kent and the East Kent region, but also an important international access point to Europe. Significant investment has been made over the last 25 years in infrastructure at Ashford International Station to ensure international services are able to operate to support business and leisure travel to Europe.

“It is imperative that the benefits of this investment are realised through services being returned to support the economy of Kent and the UK. We will not give up on this and will continue to make the case for their return, as soon as its commercially viable. International rail services provide an alternative to travelling by road or air. Not only is it a much more sustainable mode of transport, it also makes sense from an economical point of view too.”

A petition has been set up by local residents and currently has more than 57,000 signatures. KentLive readers have shared their views, with many wanting the Eurostar services to return to the Garden of England.

'It's nonsensical for residents to travel to London'

Natalie Phillips said: “I won't travel on Eurostar again until it stops in Ashford - it's nonsensical for Kent residents to travel to London just to travel back through the county, plus the additional cost of getting to London to do so.”

Oladimeji Raphael Onibon said: “ It would make life easier for Ashford residents including those in the surrounding area. I have been to Paris twice and it was very stressful having to go through the long queue and coming back the same way to Paris. The major reason I'm not going anytime soon.

“Major Boost economically and business wise it'd attract investors, hotel, local restaurants etc. Even if it starts on specific days of the week and slowly build to full time. Anything will do.

Jamie Faulkner said: “With all the money they make the least they could do is reopen it. The price it costs me to get a train to London costs more than the price for me to get a plane to Holland.

“The last time I got a Eurostar I had to get a train to London then Eurostar back past Ashford to leave. I just don’t see how other countries can charge basically nothing for public transport and still have a much better transportation system than ours that literally robs us daily.”

'We need it'

Bret Cox said he used the service in 2016 to visit Brussels for a long weekend and described it as “convenient”. “I think it’s generally good for tourism for both here and Europe for Eurostar services to return,” he said.

Victoria Farrow said: “We need it! The extra time and money to go into London, only to have to travel back out this way to Ashford doesn’t make sense! It would bring a much needed boost back to the town and the station itself.”

Hundreds of business leaders, representing thousands of employees, have responded to Kent County Council’s (KCC) call for views on the lack of international rail services stopping in Kent. Early analysis of the survey results was shared with Ashford’s Joint Transportation Board in March.

The survey received around 530 responses from business representatives operating in Kent and the wider region with nearly all calling for a return of stopping services in the county. In October 2023, KCC, supported by Ashford Borough Council and Dartford Borough Council, launched the business survey to understand the impact international rail services not calling in Kent is having on trade. The survey ran for three months, closing in January 2024.

The councils have focused on the impact of Eurostar’s decision to stop services since 2020 and have been working with rail industry leaders to address this. Further work will now be completed to understand the full range of views, so a case can be built with the aim of persuading operators and the government to get back on track in what is the Channel Tunnel’s 30th anniversary year.

A Eurostar spokesperson said: "Our Kent stations will remain closed throughout 2024 and 2025. We will provide an update should anything change regarding this. We understand this is disappointing for the local communities, and we will continue to work closely and openly with the local councils on the future of the stations."

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