Eurostar at­tack

HARSH WORDS: Gov­ern­ment ac­cused of act­ing as apol­o­gists for train firm

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - FRONT PAGE - by Paul Francis

A LABOUR MP has ac­cused his Gov­ern­ment of act­ing as “apol­o­gists” for Eurostar over its de­ci­sion to down­grade ser­vices from Ash­ford In­ter­na­tional sta­tion.

A LABOUR MP has ac­cused his Gov­ern­ment of act­ing as “apol­o­gists” for Eurostar over its de­ci­sion to down­grade ser­vices from Ash­ford In­ter­na­tional sta­tion.

In a scathing at­tack dur­ing a Com­mons de­bate last week, the Hast­ings and Rye back­bencher Michael Fos­ter said he hoped min­is­ters would step in to block Eurostar’s plans.

His crit­i­cism ap­peared to se­cure a U-turn from Trans­port Min­is­ter Tom Har­ris, who re­cently re­jected calls from Kent MPs for a meet­ing to dis­cuss the cuts.

The min­is­ter told MPs he would now be “more than happy” to meet a del­e­ga­tion.

Dur­ing an Ad­journ­ment de­bate, Mr Fos­ter said: “The Gov­ern­ment may not yet fully un­der­stand all the cir­cum­stances. I have to say, with the great­est re­spect, that they al­most cer­tainly ap­pear to be apol­o­gists for Eurostar’s woe­ful de­ci­sion about Ash­ford.”

He was sup­ported by Ash­ford MP Damian Green, who said the re­fusal of min­is­ters to meet with him and Folkestone and Hythe MP Michael Howard to dis­cuss the cut­backs was a “shame­ful state of af­fairs.”

Mr Fos­ter said the re­duc­tion in trains to and from Paris and the end­ing of a di­rect ser­vice to Brus­sels from Ash­ford were “wholly un­nec­es­sary” and “could her­ald the end of that im­por­tant ter­mi­nus.”

Eurostar was is­su­ing mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion about pos­si­ble car jour­ney times to Ebb­s­fleet from parts of the South East that could only be achieved “in the dead of night” or with a po­lice es­cort, he added.

“It is clear the cur­tail­ment of in­ter­na­tional ser­vices from Ash­ford is in di­rect con­flict with the Gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy to al­le­vi­ate road con­ges­tion, re­duce car­bon emis­sions and re­gen­er­ate eco­nom­i­cally de­prived ar­eas in East Sus­sex and Kent.”

Ash­ford was the per­fect cen­tre for travel to the Con­ti­nent, yet Eurostar was in­tent on “mov­ing mil­lions of ex­ist­ing and po­ten­tial pas­sen­gers away from rail ser­vices and mak­ing them trans­fer to road, other sta­tions or even to air.

Trans­port Min­is­ter Tom Har­ris in­sisted he was not a “spokesman for Eurostar” but de­fended the com­pany’s plans, say­ing it was a “valid com­mer­cial judge­ment”.

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