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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 May 2007, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Welcome for 'rival Eurostar plan'
Ebbsfleet International Station
Ebbsfleet International Station will take up many of Ashford's services
Reports that a rival cross-Channel rail service to Eurostar could be set up have been welcomed by Ashford council.

It follows newspaper reports this week that Air France-KLM is considering setting up its own London to Paris high-speed train service.

Council leader Paul Clokie said there had been "exciting" rumours in the Kent town for about a month.

Eurostar said it already competed with airlines and welcomed any competition. Air France-KLM has not yet commented.

Eurostar is set to cut all Brussels trains and off-peak Paris services from Ashford when Kent's new Ebbsfleet International Station opens this year.

The move has led to campaigns against the cuts by residents and politicians, which saw a petition signed by 8,000 people being handed to Eurostar last month.

Hopefully those involved in trying to bring this about will come and talk to us
Councillor Paul Clokie

On Sunday, Mr Clokie told BBC Radio Kent: "Frankly, if this comes off, it will serve Eurostar right.

"It will also serve them right if everybody decides to go to Paris with the AirFrance-KLM consortium."

He said the reported rail service plan would "certainly add services to Paris" but it was not known whether it would include a through-service to Brussels.

He added the present cross-Channel rail franchise was exclusive until 2010 but said "hopefully those involved in trying to bring this about will come and talk to us".

Eurostar has previously defended the Ashford service cuts saying most passengers would find Ebbsfleet "either the same or less of a distance to travel".

It has also said it will monitor the demand at Ashford and keep timetables under review, but the company believes it has "got the stopping pattern right".


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