Bring back Eurostar to Kent and Sussex


I recently started a petition to encourage Eurostar trains to resume calling at stations in Kent especially at Ashford on their way to the continent. Services making use of the state-of-the-art international station at Ashford have been suspended since before Covid with no firm promise of a resumption any time soon even though the station is still called, misleadingly, “International”.

At present, in order to catch a train to the continent, people from our corner of the UK have to make a journey up to London St Pancras to catch a train crossing the Channel to Paris, Brussels and beyond with the extra expense and wasted time. Previously this was one of the beauties of the service, travelling by train from city centre to city centre, no long journeys out to and in from airports. Now that all been lost by the extra travelling time needed to get to London only to return through Ashford non-stop to France, not to mention aircraft emissions.

My petition which has raised over 17,000 signatures so far was entitled “Bring Back Eurostar services to Kent” but in fact this applies just as much to East Sussex. Indeed anyone from Eastbourne and to the east of there wouldn’t have needed to travel to London but simply caught the Marshlink train from Eastbourne, through Bexhill, Hastings and Rye to Ashford.

The MP for Ashford has agreed to take up the matter with Eurostar if 20,000 signatures are reached. At present we are rather stalled, short of that number but if people in the Rye News catchment area were to sign, then the 20,000 would become attainable. Please if you agree that resumed services to the near continent from Ashford International is important for both business travellers and holidaymakers in this area, then add your name to the petition and let others know about it.

Thank you,

Keith Hillier-Palmer

Image Credits: train_photos Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

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  1. Yes, please! I have family members in the Netherlands so going to St Pancras International and facing the unwelcome expense of staying overnight at a nearby B&B is a nuisance, to say the least. Racing through Ashford International without a stop is an added frustration. I would certainly use the service more if I could pick it up at Ashford International, and feel sure that I am not the only one.

  2. My understanding is that Eurostar services are running a long way below capacity because of border formalities (cf. Dover chaos). Trains are much less than full as more passengers cannot be processed. Chaos at St Pancras international gate is now common. There is not the logistic capacity to include an Ashford stop. As a Tenterdenite I would be very happy to see an Ashford stop but is it actually possible?

    • You are right. The terminals and Ashford were never designed for the clunky border processes we now have to endure. It can only get worse with biometric ID (more of a problem for car ferry and Eurotunnel travellers than Eurostar). Happily biometric ID has been postponed again.
      The new border arrangements are not just causing delays, they are less effective than the previous arrangements which depended no exchange of information and access to databases which we have walked away from.

  3. Good idea BUT it means persuading the French Government to re open and staff a border control in the station which frankly they are not likely to do as they cannot ( or wont ) properly staff the port of Dover border point ) .

  4. I’m sure thousands of people all over Kent and East Sussex would love Eurostar to return to Ashford. But Eurostar wasn’t created just for us. We are still fortunate to be about an hour away from Kings Cross St Pancras. Eurostar aren’t going to have sympathy for those that may need to stay in London overnight at a B&B, after all that applies to thousands of people from all over the country. Regardless, since living in Rye I have used the Eurostar to Paris (14 trains a day) and Amsterdam ( 7 trains per per day) so I don’t understand why anyone from Kent or East Sussex would need to stay at a B&B in London overnight when there’s a good amount of options. What is far more tragic is that the Eurostar used to be a fabulous way to travel. It’s now dreadful, especially in Business Premier, and like much in this world, dropped its standards. Even the Business Premier lounge at St Pancras is now dreary.

  5. Another of the apparent joys of Brexit it would seem. And let us be honest, the best use of trains that can travel at nearly 200mph is to let them do just that – rather than stopping at intermediate stations on the way. At least we still have the benefit of a 37 minute journey time from Ashford direct to St Pancras to join the Eurostar, which is a lot more palatable than the alternative trek to Gatwick in my opinion.

  6. I commute to my office in Paris every 2 weeks from Rye on the Eurostar and believe there to be a few issues in play here. Firstly – the French came to the UK ‘cap in hand’ during the pandemic for a bail-out, years after then-PM Cameron sold the UK’s stake in Eurostar to the them. It was logical, but potentially short-sighted of the government to refuse to contribute, but also goes some way to explaining why the French have been reluctant to cede to pressure to reopen Ebbsfleet and or Ashford.
    The other side of the same coin is related (like it or not) to Brexit – and the additional costs of posting French border police in the UK at these additional locations now that UK passports need stamping (for however long that may last). At Ashford, there was historically always an individual checking passports – and this would likely need to remain the case, even with a move to e-gates (though the cost of installing these at Ashford and Ebbsfleet would be very substantial). In any event – Eurostar has lowered its cost base, and now also lowered capacity to cope with the St. Pancras chaos largely caused by the fact that the Kent stations remain mothballed. This lower utilisation level can’t be sustainable for Eurostar, one wouldn’t imagine.
    Separately, I recently also took the Eurostar to Rotterdam. The train stopped at Lille, and then went on to Brussels, Rotterdam etc. On my return, I was processed by private G4S staff in Rotterdam, where I boarded the train to return home. The reason for mentioning this and the link to my comments above – having seen perhaps 100 passengers board and alight at Ashford on each trip when it was open – is that Eurostar can and does stop at the more ‘minor’ stations (Lille and Rotterdam) – but most likely will want a contribution from our government for the infrastructure necessary to allow it. Money talks – especially for a service that was gutted by Covid. I hate my c.5 hour commute and want Ashford to reopen.. but I don’t expect anything to happen without UK financial assistance.


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