Fewer business trips fail to hurt Eurostar

Fewer business trips fail to hurt Eurostar

PARIS - Agence France-Presse
European railway operator Eurostar, which links Brussels, London and Paris, said yesterday that traffic and sales increased last year despite a decline in the number of business travelers.

Eurostar, which is 55 percent owned by the French national railway SNCF, posted 2011 sales of 803 million pounds ($1.27 billion), an annualized gain of 6 percent.

The railway made a net profit of 20.8 million pounds, according to a statement that did not provide a comparable figure for 2010, explaining that it was the company’s first year of operation as a fully private entity.

Traffic on Eurostar’s high-speed trains increased by 2 percent to 9.7 million passengers as the railway continued to attract people who might otherwise have flown between the three relatively close European capitals.

However, the number of business travelers declined by 3 percent in 2011 compared with 2010, and by 5.0 percent in the fourth quarter from the same period a year earlier.

Eurostar said the eurozone debt crisis and a weaker economic climate had limited the number of trips taken by business passengers.

Looking ahead, Eurostar chief executive Nicolas Petrovic forecasts that 2012 would be a year of opportunity owing to two major events in London, the Summer Olympics and Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee.

In addition to SNCF, the railway operator is owned by London Continental Railways, which has a 40 percent stake, and the Belgian national railway SNCB, which holds 5 percent.