Eddie Mair 4pm - 7pm
Eurostar trains will not stop in Kent until 2022, sparking job loss fears
3 September 2020, 20:39
Eurostar has announced its trains will not stop at stations in Kent before 2022, leading to fears that staff could lose their jobs.
The train operator said it had made the decision after bookings dropped by 90% compared to last year - an "unprecedented" fall caused by coronavirus.
Eurostar services have not been stopping at Ashford International or Ebbsfleet International since March after the pandemic had taken hold around the world.
This will now continue until at least 2022 and has prompted the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) to encourage an intervention from the government to protect staff jobs.
Making the announcement, a Eurostar spokesman said the company was continuing to operate in "very challenging conditions" but stressed the environment was "very unpredictable" as it had been exacerbated by quarantine restrictions.
He then revealed plans to adapt and cut costs further, including a reduced timetable focusing on core routes and destinations with the highest demand.
"As a result, we have had to make the very difficult decision not to reopen Ashford International or Ebbsfleet International stations before 2022.
"We have not taken this decision lightly and have given this considerable thought but given the severity of the situation we have to take action," he said.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA, said the station closures were a "clear sign" that Eurostar needs help from the government.
He added: "Ministers can't be allowed to sit on the sidelines, they must act now. The Transport Secretary and Chancellor have to give Eurostar the proper support package it badly needs so that it can keep going under the present circumstances.
"Eurostar provides a green strategic link between Britain and our European neighbours, so retaining these jobs and services will significantly increase the chances of Eurostar being on a firm footing as services return to near normal in the months ahead."