Eurostar Studies `Vineyard Express' to Bordeaux as Sales Revive

  • New high-speed line will open up southwest France, CEO says
  • Demand on London-Paris route recovering after terror attacks

Channel Tunnel rail operator Eurostar International Ltd. said it’s evaluating the viability of a possible new route from London to Bordeaux.

France’s sixth-largest urban area may have the potential to join the Eurostar network following the completion of a high-speed link from Tours next year, Chief Executive Officer Nicolas Petrovic said Tuesday in an interview in London.

Should Eurostar opt to go ahead, services to Bordeaux would probably start in 2019 or 2020, after the company’s next new route to Amsterdam that’s slated to commence in late 2017, he said.

“Bordeaux has really turned itself around,” Petrovic said. “It’s a dynamic city.” Direct trains from London would be attractive to Britons with properties in southwest France or visiting the area’s vineyards, the Atlantic coast and Basque region, he said.

While U.K. travelers can reach Bordeaux by changing trains in France, direct services have a galvanizing effect on demand, the CEO said, citing the example of Eurostar’s six-hour, 1,235-kilometer (767-mile) London-Marseille route.

Paris Revival

The year-round link to the French Riviera with stops at Lyon and Avignon began running last May and is going “super well,” Petrovic said, with bookings suggesting that the service is creating its own market of rail-friendly travelers rather than cannibalizing airline volumes.

Demand on Eurostar’s core London-Paris route has begun to revive after nosediving in the wake of November’s terrorist attacks on the French capital, and bookings for spring and summer should surpass last year’s levels, he said. Some Asia customers are avoiding France, but the U.S. market has picked up “pretty fast” and Britons have returned.

Dutch trials of Eurostar’s new Siemens AG e320 expresses -- which entered traffic on the Paris route in November -- will begin next month. Eurostar plans to operate the Amsterdam service with a batch of seven of the trains.

Eurostar’s passenger tally was unchanged last year at 10.4 million, while underlying operating profit fell 38 percent to 34 million pounds ($49 million) on adverse currency movements and disruption from illegal migrants.

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