[passenger] Why Eurostar is talking about getting new trains


The Financial Times spoke with Gwendoline Cazenave, Eurostar’s chief executive. She confirms that the company wants to increase its capacity, which requires more trains (and extra space at some stations). This is a significant yet predictable change in Eurostar’s strategy compared to the official statements from January 2023. Back then, It was officially still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and focused on the core network with the existing fleet of trains. 

The expansion plans are unsurprising, as 2023 was a very successful year for Eurostar. It transported 18.6 million passengers, up 22% from 2022, putting numbers back in line with pre-COVID-19 levels. The operator’s confidence is strengthened by 2023’s strong demand for routes to Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris. It communicates its bold ambition of reaching 30 million annual passengers by 2030 in press statements.

This can not be done with the current fleet of 51 trains—25 ex-Eurostar and 26 ex-Thalys. More trains are required. Plus, Eurostar needs to start thinking about replacing its oldest stock. In 2030, seventeen units, the eight Eurostar e300 sets built in 1992/3 and the nine Thalys PBA sets from 1996, will be 34-38 years old, past the expiry date for high-speed trains. We estimate that Eurostar needs at least 30 new trains by 2030,

Another key driver to modernisation and growth is staying ahead of the looming competition. Several new potential competitors have introduced themselves in the past year. They want a part of the promising market and end Eurostar’s monopoly on passenger services through the Channel Tunnel. We have to keep an eye on names such as Getlink, Heuro, and Evolyn, and, of course, Richard Branson is never far away from the fight.