11th Dec 2023
Here's a great story of some important work being done by a group of residents, campaigning to bring back a train service that will benefit a huge number of people, here in the UK and in Europe. Over to Stephanie Boucher, Bushra Akhtar and the Bring Back Euro Trains team to tell us more...
Bring Back Euro Trains is a residents’ campaign aimed at reinstating international trains services to the Kent stations of Ashford and Ebbsfleet. The campaign is organised by a core group on behalf of the many thousands of people who have signed the petition to this effect.
Eurostar have run international passenger services through the Channel Tunnel since May 1995. Most of these are direct city-to-city services between London St Pancras and Paris or Brussels, but before the pandemic a proportion of the trains would stop at one of the Kent stations. This provided direct links to Brussels and Paris for people and businesses across Kent, Sussex and the South East of England.
The stops at the Kent stations were discontinued at the start of the COVID pandemic and not reinstated when the pandemic ended. Eurostar have stated that they won’t revisit this decision until 2025 at the earliest, and even then, the return of Ashford and Ebbsfleet as Eurostar stops is not guaranteed. Eurostar say their focus is on servicing the more profitable routes to help pay down the debt they incurred during this crisis period.
Meanwhile, the international terminals at Ashford and Ebbsfleet lie idle along with all the infrastructure that was built to handle such traffic. Hundreds of businesses and thousands of people had moved to Kent to take advantage of its international train services: they now have to make an expensive and time-consuming detour via London St Pancras to get on a Eurostar, only to come back through Kent on their way to the continent. Many opt for less environmentally-friendly ways to travel instead.
In March 2023, Ashford resident Bushra Akhtar put a post up on a community website asking if anyone else like her had been impacted by the loss of the Eurostar in her town. The response to this simple question was overwhelming and sparked a huge online debate, with people voicing their struggles and concerns.
On the back of this post, the petition was started and the first residents’ meeting was organised in early June 2023. The meeting allowed people to come together to discuss if, collectively, the residents could do anything to help reinstate this service.
It was at this first meeting that the ‘Bring Back Euro Trains Residents Group’ was formed. A core group drawn from a variety of sectors, such as IT, Financial Services, Education, Public Affairs and Marketing, now meets regularly to discuss proactive ways to facilitate the return of international services to the Kent stations.
Many other Eurostar stops were axed during the pandemic (Calais-Fréthun, Disneyland Paris and more), but our campaign focuses purely on the stops at Ashford and Ebbsfleet which would have the greatest impact locally.
Competitors to Eurostar are starting to look at taking up the spare capacity on the cross-channel routes. As a result, we have changed our campaign from its original focus on Eurostar to include any train operator willing to take on the route between London and the continent. To reflect this, we chose the name Bring Back Euro Trains.
Our aim is to conduct research, liaise with local authorities and keep the issue in the public eye. We believe there is an immediate as well as long-term growth opportunity for any transport provider who services the Kent-Europe route. We want Eurostar and its competitors to recognise the demand in the South East for European train travel.
For the UK taxpayers who funded HS1’s infrastructure including the more recent £10m signalling system at Ashford Station, it is important that Kent’s European connections be restored to ensure a return on that investment. Each day without this service is a sunk cost to taxpayers.
Our Bring Back Euro Trains website serves as a focal point for contact, news and information about our campaign and about cross-channel trains in general. It makes the petition accessible at the click of a button.
Climate change is a real concern for residents in Kent. Not having a European train connection has taken away the choice of opting for sustainable travel for locals. According to Eco Passenger, taking a train to Paris from Kent compared to flying would cut carbon footprint by as much as 90%.
The UK government has a legally binding duty to reduce carbon emissions. We believe that train travel, in Kent and across the UK, can help meet those obligations.
We are looking to partner and collaborate with individuals and organisations who want to see a return of Cross-Channel trains connections between Kent and Europe.
In particular, we need regional champions in other parts of Kent (outside of Ashford) as well as business representatives who will support this initiative.
Find Bring Back Euro Trains online: