Scotland should now get the once-promised Eurostar trains to Europe – Kenny MacAskill MP

Adverts came up on my social media timeline promoting Eurostar trains services direct from London’s St Pancras station to European cities.

They looked very attractive, tempting even. I’ve been to Paris and Brussels, but I’ve never been to Antwerp, a city that has long intrigued me.

Besides, like many I’m beginning to develop a bit “cabin fever” from being at home. With lockdown easing, I’m hankering to travel abroad again, as recent holidays have been staycations. Not being a fan of the beach resorts, visiting such cities appeals.

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Moreover, with the backdrop of COP26, I’m loath to worsen my carbon footprint. A train journey’s also far more relaxing, and often affording stunning scenery from the window, rather than the boredom of a flight.

I did Interrail decades ago now as a young man, though I’m now at an age where I prefer a few more comforts and a berth to sleep in, rather than trying to rest sitting or curled up.

But why do I need to go to London to get a train? Or worse still, be forced to fly? Whilst its over 40 years since I went Interrailing – when changing from the train to the ferry at Dover and Boulogne was required – it’s only just over 20 years since Eurostar services came in offering direct rail access. But where’s the direct link from Scotland?

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When Eurostar was first mooted and planned, direct services from Scotland were anticipated. Sleeper services would whisk you overnight from Glasgow and Edinburgh straight through London to Paris.

Passengers board a Eurostar train at St Pancras International station in London (Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

No need for a change for another train, let alone a ferry. You’d arrive in Paris about 9.30am in time for coffee and croissants. What went out would also come back, bringing foreign visitors, as well as returning Scots.

Schedules were set and trains acquired. Then the plug was pulled, and the trains diverted to Leeds, before being sold to Canada. Rather than reducing air passenger duty on internal flights, the Tories should be delivering what Scotland was promised by using the funds to improve rail links not just from Scotland to the south, but to Europe.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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