Page last updated at 08:26 GMT, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Eurostar travel hits record level

Eurostar train
Eurostar says its move to St Pancras has boosted travel from the regions

High-speed Channel Tunnel passenger train service Eurostar has said ticket sales rose 10.9% last year, as it carried 10.3% more passengers.

The record 9.1m passenger figure would have been higher if a September fire in the tunnel between England and France had not caused severe disruption.

Full-year ticket sales increased to 664m ($992.9m) from 599m in 2007.

Chief executive Richard Brown told the BBC the company was "quite optimistic" about prospects for future growth.

Speaking to Radio 4's Today programme, he said the figures were "some good news amongst all the doom and gloom".

He added: "We are an international business and while the pound is weak, that means that London is much cheaper for people coming from France and Belgium, so we have seen 15% and more growth in visitors coming to London, a lot of them using our shops and buying stuff here in London."

'Quite optimistic'

Mr Brown also said that St Pancras International, the railway service's new base, was more accessible to the rest of the UK than the previous base at Waterloo, boosting tunnel travel from the regions.

"We are actually quite optimistic because the 10% growth we have seen last year is despite a section of the Tunnel still being under repair," said Mr Brown.

"We are expecting the tunnel to reopen fully before the spring, so we will be able to provide a full service again."

A fire on board a Eurotunnel freight shuttle on 11 September caused part of the tunnel to be closed.

Continued reduced tunnel access and longer journey times will continue to have an impact in the first quarter of 2009, with a return to a full timetable in the early spring, Eurostar said.



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