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Record Year for Eurostar as More Travelers Switch from Airlines

  • £518 million in sales - up 11% over 2005
  • 7.85 million travelers carried - up more than 5%
  • 17% increase in passengers buying flexible fares
  • Punctuality reaches 91.5% - up from 86.3% in 2005
  • Rail Europe North American sales up 30% each month August-December

White Plains, NY, January 11, 2007 -- Eurostar, the high-speed passenger train service linking the UK with France and Belgium, saw record sales and traveler numbers in 2006, as it attracted thousands of passengers from the airlines.

Sales topped half a billion pounds for the first time, rising 11.7% from £ 463.8 million to £ 518.3 million. North American sales of Eurostar tickets by Rail Europe, Eurostar's official North American representative, increased 6% for the year, with exceptionally strong sales August-December, with an average monthly increase of 30%. A total of 7.86 million travelers chose Eurostar in 2006, up 5.4% over 2005. Of those, more than 200,000 bought tickets in North America from Rail Europe. Globally, the largest increase (17%) was in the number of passengers buying fully flexible Business Premier tickets. Rail Europe reports similarly a growth in the number of higher-priced flexible tickets sold in North America. More than 43% of Rail Europe's Eurostar tickets were sold in 2006 via the company's recently revamped Web sites.

91.5% punctuality and new fare range help growth
Punctuality in 2006 was a record 91.5%, far outstripping airline competitors on the London-Paris and London-Brussels routes. Latest figures from the UK's Civil Aviation Authority show that punctuality at London's airports remains around 70%, as in previous years. Increased security at airports since the summer and foggy weather in the UK before Christmas meant thousands of passengers switched from airlines to Eurostar. Many of these travelers were using Eurostar for the first time, and it is estimated that 1,000 business travelers per week have now permanently transferred from flying to taking the high-speed train.

Another contributing factor to ticket sales growth was the introduction in August 2006 of a new fare range for Eurostar tickets in North America. The new range offers more options for low fares and fewer restrictions on lower-priced fares.

"We believe that the combination of the new fare range, fast travel times, excellent punctuality, frequent service between city-centers and the lower hassle factor compared to air travel explains the very strong North American sales we saw in the last part of 2006," said Fabrice Morel, President and CEO of Rail Europe.

Richard Brown, CEO of Eurostar, said: "Travelers are discovering that international connections are easier than they imagined. I am delighted at the strong growth in the number of business travelers, who are discovering the punctuality and productivity advantages that Eurostar offers compared with the experience of flying. Many more travelers are being attracted by the environmental benefits of using high-speed rail instead of short-haul air. We expect 2007 to be another good year."

Traveling at speeds up to 186 mph, Eurostar currently makes the London-Paris journey in 2 hrs 35 min, London-Brussels in 2 hrs 15 minutes on the fastest schedules. Fares start at just $94 US/$110 CAD one-way between London-Paris (or London-Brussels). Travel times will shrink even more this November 14 when the last segment of UK high-speed track is completed. On November 14, 2007 Eurostar's London terminal moves overnight from Waterloo International and services will launch from the new central London station, St. Pancras International. More than 70 million travelers have ridden Eurostar since the launch of service in 1994.

For more information contact Rail Europe, Eurostar's official North American representative at www.raileurope.com (U.S.) or www.raileurope.ca (Canada) or call 1-800-EUROSTAR (1-800-387-6782) in the U.S. or Canada.

Photos: members of the press may download high-res photos of Eurostar and other European trains at www.raileurope.com/presspix

European Trains