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Published on Friday, February 22, 2019

Eurostar slams newspaper no-deal Brexit chaos warning



Eurostar has dismissed a report that claimed its cross-Channel passenger train service might only survive only six to 12 weeks if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal as 'extremely misleading and speculative'.

The Financial Times claimed that queues at Eurostar's London passenger terminal could reach up to 15,000 passengers a day due to increase passport checks by the French authorities.

It said an 11-page Department for Transport report, shared with both Eurostar and Network Rail, had acknowledged that in the worst case scenario, this would mean queues would stretch for almost a mile from St Pancras to Warren Street underground station.

This could force Eurostar to reduce its schedule by cancelling trains to avoid passengers queuing outside the station, and the FT report claimed the train operator had warned the government that this could threaten the viability of its services to continental Europe.

However, Eurostar issued a statement this morning saying: "The scenario presented is extremely misleading and speculative. It assumes a worst case situation and then assumes that neither Eurostar, nor the Governments undertake any action to mitigate the impact.

"In fact, Eurostar has been working extensively with our station partners, Governments and control authorities on both sides of the Channel to ensure that robust plans are in place to protect services and to manage customer flows effectively."

Currently queues at St Pancras reach around 200 passengers on an average day, although even last summer there were days when passengers almost missed their departures due to longer than usual passport checks.

If passenger checks are stepped up post-Brexit, longer queues will build up, according to DfT report, which points out that departure facilities at St Pancras are 'constrained' and queues are 'extremely sensitive' to changes in the French border control arrangements.

If Brussels insisted that UK and non-EU passengers at St Pancras were no longer allowed to use passport e-gates, and the French police refused to increase personnel at their checkpoints, the queues would lengthen significantly, it said.

The DfT report adds that, in those circumstances, manned border checks lasting 21 seconds per person would create an average daily queue of 2,000 passengers, 'breaching existing resilience arrangements' at the station.

'¨If French checks were to take 75 seconds per person, the DfT report says the queues at St Pancras could reach up to 15,000 passengers each day. In the worst-case scenario, with maximum [French police] checks on non-EU passengers (including UK citizens) and with no change to the staffing of [French police] booths or other mitigations in place, queues could reach up to 15,000 passengers on a busy day," it says.

However, Eurostar said: "We have firm plans in place for a range of potential scenarios to ensure that we can maintain our service even in the event of a 'no deal' Brexit."

Earlier this week, Eurotunnel operator Getlink said a no-deal Brexit would reduce its anticipated earnings this year by €15 million, but it said it was prepared for Britain's exit from the EU.

Announcing its ninth year of growth in 2018, chairman and CEO Jacques Gounon said: "The Group is focusing on Brexit from a solid foundation in order to provide our customers with the best possible service whilst increasing our competitiveness.

Meanwhile, disruption continues on Eurostar services this week. The train operator has been forced to cancel up to three services a day between London and Paris up to March 2 for 'operational' reasons. The cancellations follow major disruption over last weekend when an unexploded WWII bomb was unearthed at its Paris terminal, Gare du Nord.

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