Published On: Mon, Feb 5th, 2024
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UK tourists hit with Eurostar warning over passenger caps after new EU border checks | World | News

British tourists have been warned that Eurostar may need to limit the number of daily passengers travelling from St Pancras within just months. The ripple effects the introduction later this year of the Entry/Exit System (EES) checks by the European Union may have on UK travellers appear to be concerning HS1, which owns and operates the line and stations between London and the Channel tunnel.

The EES will come into effect in October and is set to make crossing the bloc’s border a more time-consuming business for non-EU nationals including British citizens.

The new system will get rid of passport stamps in favour of passport details and biometric data to be checked and stored by automated barriers at the borders.

This system has been hailed by Brussels as time-saving and will make it easier to detect people without the right to enter the EU and those overstaying their time in the bloc.

However, it is feared its introduction will spark major delays, as UK nationals and other non-EU citizens will need to spend time the first time they want to enter the EU after the introduction of the EES to provide their biometric data, a process much longer than the simple passport check.

HS1 believes the planning at London St Pancras ahead of the arrival of the EES checks is “severely inadequate” and could lead to long delays. As a consequence, Eurostar may need to potentially cap its services and passenger numbers.

HS1 warned the French Government has allocated only 24 EES kiosks, despite modelling suggesting as many as 49 would be needed by Eurostar at peak times to cope with the number of passengers.

In evidence to MPs part of the European Scrutiny Select Committee, the operator wrote: “We are told that the proposed kiosks are ‘optional’ as the process can be delivered at the border, but without about 49 additional kiosks located before the current international zone [at St Pancras] there would be unacceptable passenger delays of many hours and potential capping of services.”

HS1 also noted the lack of space at the St Pancras station, a Grade I-listed building, will make it even more difficult to implement the checks needed by the new EES and to accommodate passengers in longer queues.

Eurostar, which runs around 14 trains from Paris to St Pancras every day, each with up to 900 passengers, also gave evidence to the committee, saying kiosks would create new queues and more complex flow management, resulting in “higher risk for the delivery of the timetable and the growth of rail transport from St Pancras”.

The train operator, which would need to fund any extra kiosk coming at £25,000 each and their yearly maintenance costs, suggested each EES check would add “two to three minutes” to the time needed to process each passenger at the border. Currently, each passport stamp takes around 45 seconds.

In its evidence to the committee, the operator suggested the EU and the UK could consider agreements exempting Britons from the collection and verification of biometric records. It also called for the creation of an “emergency brake mechanism” to be triggered by politicians if the EES led to permanently longer queues and traffic.

A Eurostar spokesperson told “We are working closely with UK and EU member states authorities, as well as with our station owners, to prepare for the implementation of both EES and ETIAS.

“We are currently working on solutions to reduce the impact on our customer as much as we can and preserve a smooth travel experience. We will be able to give you more details in the coming months.”

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