Roland Berger studying low cost trains between Paris and London

07 September 2018 3 min. read
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Getlink, a company that operates within the Channel Tunnel, wants to launch an alternative to the Eurostar. The company has drafted in Roland Berger to understand what impact offering 25% to 30% cheaper trains could have by connecting Roissy CDG to London's Stratford station.

Low cost trains could be on their way from Paris to London, should Channel Tunnel concessionaire Getlink (formerly Eurotunnel) heed a study commissioned by Roland Berger. The study revealed that traffic through the tunnel would increase by an additional five million passengers annually should a service run for as much as 30% less be used to connect Roissy CDG with London's Stratford station. Citing the study, Getlink President Jacques Gounon said the opening of a Franco-British low-cost train service would "increase the Channel Tunnel traffic, by 58%."

Specifically, the document of a hundred pages recommends adopting a model similar to that of Ouigo or Izy trains, the low-cost versions of the SNCF and Thalys. Their formula is simple enough to replicate: a company hoping to emulate them would only need to plan for departures and arrivals in the outlying stations, and use the routes of the old lines, which are less rapid but where the tolls are cheaper – and this would be the source of the 25-30% cost reduction, according to Roland Berger’s study. This fall should logically be reflected in the price of tickets, for a trip slightly over 3 hours, against 2 hours and 20 minutes for the Eurostar.

Roland Berger studying low cost trains between Paris and London

If several tracks are presented, the stations of Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle and Stratford in London seem to be the most likely to respond to this new offer. New lines are also being studied to connect the British capital to Bordeaux, Frankfurt or Geneva.

Gounon stated, "The establishment of the Charles-de-Gaulle Express as part of Greater Paris and the presence of customs officers in the airport make Roissy a leading destination for low-cost offers… On the British side, the Stratford station, connected to the public transport network since the 2012 Olympics, gives access to the city centre very quickly. "

Compatibility challenge

Gounon added that while the plan seems solid, implementation will take much longer however, so consumers should not expect to see this any time soon. He explained, "Within ten years, the study reveals that five million new passengers could use this rail offer, without even taking into account the natural growth of the market… The implementation of railway projects is still extremely long, says the sponsor of the study. If a new company embarks on the low cost Paris-London, it will take at least eighteen months before it is operational.”

This delay could be shortened to six months in the event that Eurostar embarks on the low-cost race, thanks to the experience effect it enjoys, however, at the moment, nobody knows who could tackle this market. Along with Getlink, other names are mentioned, such as the French-Belgian Thalys, the Italian Italo, the British Virgin or the SNCF with a new low-cost brand.

The possibility of a lengthy transition could be further amplified by the effects of Brexit. With a No Deal increasingly likely, travel between the UK and France could be headed for major disruption in 2019. While he accepts this may have a bearing on business, Gounon remains positive about the potential scenario though, stating, "Even in the case of a tough Brexit, flows between Europe and the UK will continue, and with an effective low cost offer, they could even intensify."