Eurostar Group Ltd. will introduce wireless communications and dedicated check-in areas for business travelers as the express rail service linking London with Paris and Brussels enters its third decade of service.
The Channel Tunnel train operator will spend 1 billion pounds ($1.7 billion), including 700 million pounds on new trains, through 2016, Chief Executive Officer Nicolas Petrovic said in an interview today after announcing a 7 percent rise in revenue to 227 million pounds.
This year is the first time in five years Eurostar will add capacity.
A 6 percent rise in Business Premier traffic in the previous quarter -- double the total 3 percent rise -- shows an improving financial climate, especially in France, which last year was lagging growth seen from the U.K. side, he said.
Eurostar will now be adding “a few percentage points” of capacity as measured by seats. As business returns to normal after several difficult years, the operator opens a “new chapter” with a fully-renewed fleet by the end of 2015, Petrovic said.
“The underlying trend is very strong, with the business market really coming back in a firm manner,” Petrovic said.
The express rail service, which debuted in 1994, is set to celebrate its 20th anniversary in November. In coming years, it will add services to destinations including Lyon, Marseille, and Amsterdam.
New e320 trains ordered from Siemens AG will link London with Amsterdam from December 2016, offering stops in Antwerp, Rotterdam and at Schiphol airport. Zurich and Geneva are also options for new routes, Eurostar has said.
No decision has yet been made on whether to charge for wireless communications, or Wi-Fi, which will be available to all passengers, though Petrovic said he thought it “unlikely” fees will be imposed.