Eurostar has reported an 11.5 percent fall in passengers in the first quarter because of the partial closure of the tunnel and a slump in business travel.
First-quarter sales fell 5.8 percent, due to a large fall off in business travel, down 20 percent. However the operator of high-speed train services between London and Paris and Brussels said leisure travel rose by 2.2 percent over the period as French and Belgium tourists flocked to Britain due to the cheap Pound.
Part of the tunnel was closed after a fire broke out September 11 aboard one of the trains. It fully reopened to traffic only on February 23. The return to normal operations through the tunnel enabled Eurostar to achieve punctuality of 96% between February 23 and the end of March.
Eurostar said first-quarter revenue fell to £168.1 million pounds from £178.5 million in the same quarter in 2008.
Chief executive Richard Brown said: “The downturn may be depressing business travel but it is having the opposite effect on the leisure market, with more people wanting to get away from it all to relax, recharge the batteries and spend time with loved ones.
“Like other businesses, we must reduce our costs to meet the new economic realities. We are also preparing for the challenges and opportunities of on-rail competition from January 2010.
“We are determined to continue growing our markets and we will be fully ready to compete head-on with any new competitor on our routes.”