Eurostar passenger numbers rise while business class proves a big winner

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High-speed rail operator Eurostar has reported a rise in passenger numbers for 2010, with a growth in business class travel boosting sales further.

The firm yesterday announced a 3 per cent year-on-year rise in passenger numbers and 12 per cent growth in revenue.

Eurostar, which operates the high speed rail link connecting London, Paris and Brussels, said it carried 9.5 million passengers last year. Sales grew to 760 million, up from 675.5m in 2009.

It attributed the passenger growth to the increasing number of people opting for high-speed rail for short-haul European travel beyond Paris and Brussels to destinations in Holland, Germany and the south of France.

The group also reported a bounce-back in business activity during the year. Chief executive Nicolas Petrovic said: "We have reported a strong performance in 2010 with growth in both sales revenues and passenger numbers.

"The turnaround in the business market continued in the second half of the year. We are also starting to see a real shift in behaviour as customers are increasingly keen to explore new destinations by high-speed rail."

He added: "As the key link between the UK and the continent, we see considerable potential for growth and expansion in an open-access world."

Currently, Eurostar is the only company that runs passenger train services through the Channel Tunnel, but German train operator Deutsche Bahn plans to run direct services from London to Frankfurt and Amsterdam from 2013.

A direct link to Scotland could also be on the cards after Labour recently said that it will press ScotRail to look at setting up a sleeper service to Paris and Brussels if it wins power at Holyrood in May.

In September, Eurostar announced a major capital investment of 700m in its fleet.

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