Edinburgh should have Eurostar direct link to continental Europe, says MP

East Lothian MP Kenny MacAskill is calling for direct train services from Edinburgh to the continent as originally promised when Eurostar was launched more than 25 years ago.

By Ian Swanson
Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 4:55 am

Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article.

The former MSP and Justice Secretary said the move would be in tune with efforts to combat climate change and would mean increased connections between Scotland and Europe.

And he argued investment in improving rail links would be a better use of money than Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget choice of slashing tax on domestic air travel.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Eurostar was supposed operate direct services from Edinburgh

Eurostar services through the Channel Tunnel represented a major advance in travel to the continent when they were launched in 1994.

The original proposals included direct services to Paris and Brussels not just from London, but also Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, York, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Seven trains were built for these routes, but the services never materialised, with the advent of cheap air travel cited as the main reason the plans were dropped.

Passengers from elsewhere in the UK travelling by rail to European destinations currently have to change trains in London, with the Eurostar departing from St Pancras International.

Edinburgh passengers heading for the continent have to change trains in London

But now Mr MacAskill believes the idea of a direct service from Edinburgh should be revived.

He said: “Scotland was promised a direct overnight service that would get you into Paris for coffee and croissants, timetables were scheduled and trains acquired, but the plug was pulled.

“We're a quarter of a century on, the need to move from air to rail has never been greater – now is the time that Scots should be able to access Europe directly by an overnight train without having to change in London and overnight there or having to take an early morning flight.

“Rather than reducing Air Passenger Duty, the Chancellor should be investing in the rail network. It would not only let Scots access the continent but allow visitors to access Scotland."

Mr MacAskill raised the issue in the House of Commons, asking the Government what assessment had been made of the potential merits of establishing a sleeper train service from Scotland to the European continent.

In reply, junior transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris indicated they were ready to engage with operators on new services which would be commercially viable.

He said: “The Government supports the future growth and success of international passenger rail services, which provide many benefits for passengers, businesses and the wider economy including significant environmental benefits.

“The Government regularly engages with international partners, as well as industry, to discuss and encourage the expansion of international rail connections to Europe. The Government stands ready to engage with other partners and private operators to facilitate potential new sleeper services, where there is a commercial proposition to do so.”

Eurostar services to the continent have proved popular, with business booming before the pandemic and predicted to recover over the next year or so. An estimated 11 million passengers a year travelled by Eurostar in 2018 and 2019.

Although Eurostar does not currently run sleeper trains, there is said to be a Europe-wide resurgence in such overnight services.

Read More

Read More
Revealed: ambitious plan could see East Lothian become a key cross-border destin...

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.