Page last updated at 10:16 GMT, Thursday, 31 July 2008 11:16 UK

Eurostar to resume Brussels link

Eurostar train
Travellers will be able to reach Brussels before 0900 local time

Eurostar is to resume a daily direct service between Ashford International, in Kent, and Brussels from December.

The high-speed passenger train operator said the decision followed a review of traveller demand.

Ashford lost all of its services to Brussels, and some to Paris, when the new Ebbsfleet International station opened last November.

A 14,000-signature petition against the cuts was handed into the government amid complaints from commuters and MPs.

Damian Green, Conservative MP for Ashford, had campaigned for the decision to be reversed, challenging ministers in Parliament and pointing out that Ashford was a fast-growing town that needed an international rail service.

Although we think the direct Ashford to Brussels service will be loss-making initially, we are prepared to take a risk
Richard Brown, chief executive, Eurostar

In a BBC Radio Kent interview he said: "This is a very good day not just for Ashford but for everyone in east Kent.

"Ashford is fast growing - it is planned to have 31,000 extra houses - and we need thousands of extra jobs for those people as well.


"One of the great attractions of Ashford is its location and to exploit that location we need the best rail links possible."

Eurostar said the new service to Brussels would be introduced from 14 December, the date of the international winter timetable change.

It said traveller numbers on the London to Brussels route had increased by 30% since the introduction of the High Speed 1 timetable from Ebbsfleet, which was significantly more than expected.

"This creates the opportunity to re-introduce a direct Ashford to Brussels service, which the review suggests has the potential to become commercially viable," a statement said.

Travellers will be able to reach Brussels before 0900 local time, while weekly commuters will also be able to return to Brussels on a Sunday evening.

'Sufficient demand'

Tickets for the new service will go on sale from 16 August.

Eurostar said from December 2009 the launch of Southeastern's high-speed commuter services on High Speed 1 would enable it to offer a big increase in connecting services between Ashford International and Brussels.

Richard Brown, chief executive, said: "I am delighted at the big increase in travellers on our London to Brussels route.

"Although we think the direct Ashford to Brussels service will be loss-making initially, we are prepared to take a risk and see if it is possible to build up sufficient demand to make it commercially viable.

"There have been calls for a direct service between Ashford and Brussels - now we hope travellers will show they value it and will use it."

The current level of service of three services a day between Ashford and Paris, each way, will remain unchanged.


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