Ashford and Ebbsfleet closed
Eurostar has confirmed that it will not run services from Ashford International and Ebbsfleet International until further notice - possibly 2022.
Of course, these two stations made convenient start and end points for a significant proportion of travellers. If you live in Essex or Kent — and for people driving from other parts of the country to meet the Eurostar – these stations can be more convenient than St Pancras. So it’s a shame they are closed.
A Eurostar spokesperson told me:
"The Covid 19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented fall in demand for travel. At this time, we are focusing only on our core routes where demand is at its highest, and as a result Ashford and Ebbsfleet stations are currently closed. We are continuing to monitor demand and will update our timetable accordingly."
However, Kent Online reports that Eurostar has announced that the stations will not reopen until 2022. Ashford MP, Damien Green told Kent Online: “I am now getting on to the Transport Secretary to see if there is anything the government can do - it is a blow for Kent."
The thing about Ashford particularly, is that very few trains called there in the first place. (The Ski Train did, but the Ski Train has been cancelled for this season.)
On the London to Paris Eurostar route, for example, out of 27 departures from St Pancras, only three called at Ashford; and coming back from Paris, only five. That means the chance of your preferred outbound and return trains both calling at Ashford was minimal.
And if you were driving to Ashford, and leaving the car there, and then unable to return to Ashford, then what was the point of Ashford? It could only work if there were more Eurostar trains that called there, to achieve ‘critical mass’ of usefulness of the station.
Today, I've contacted MP Damien Green regarding this. Perhaps, with a view to the future, a working group could be established to make Ashford and Ebbsfleet workable, open again and helping more people travel by train.
Unless Eurostar can show its calculation as to why so few trains called at Ashford in the first place, how can one know if Eurostar got the calculation right?