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NBCCSpotlightDe Haan 1

NBCC were pleased to interview Gwendoline Cazenave, CEO of Eurostar.

Eurostar, a pioneering force in European rail travel, embodies more than just a means of transportation—it represents an unforgettable journey across the continent. From the bustling streets of Paris to the charming alleys of Amsterdam, Eurostar seamlessly connects travelers to iconic destinations with unparalleled convenience and style.

Can you provide a brief overview of Eurostar, its history, and its mission in the transportation industry?
Eurostar has evolved! Now combining Eurostar and Thalys, the new Group aims to carry 30 million passengers a year by 2030 and become the benchmark for sustainable travel in Europe.

Both Eurostar and Thalys were launched almost 30 years ago. Today, with a fleet of 51 trains, Eurostar offers the largest international high-speed network in Western Europe, serving 28 destinations in Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, with major cities such as London, Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, and Cologne.

Eurostar is known for its high-speed rail services. What are some of the advantages of high-speed rail travel, and how does Eurostar maintain its leadership in this sector?
High-speed rail is the most sustainable way of travelling. If you board a Eurostar, you will save on average around 95% in greenhouse gas emissions compared to a plane. Our ambition, however, is to do more and to become the most sustainable railway operator in Europe, through the increased use of renewable energy sources and better resource management.

If businesses are looking to limit their carbon footprint and become more sustainable, they really have to consider high-speed rail for short and medium-distance travel and see how they can best incentivise these types of services for their staff. We are here to help with corporate and SME offers, and a new, single loyalty programme.

In the years to come, there will be more options to travel by rail from our main hubs (London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Lille) to wider Europe as we are working on improving connections with other rail operators. And in the long run, we will have the opportunity to increase the number of services between our core destinations.

Eurostar places a strong emphasis on the passenger experience. How does the company prioritize customer satisfaction and comfort during travel?
A great travel experience is at the core of everything we do. This goes from the booking phase to the on-board time through to the station experience.
With the launch of the ‘new Eurostar’, our objective is to improve the passenger experience in concrete terms, with a new website and a new app for simplified bookings and connections, and a new loyalty programme where you can earn points across our London and Continental routes. There will also be some visible changes to on-board services in the next few months.

We are also actively working on improving the station experience, especially on our London routes where passengers need to cross a border. Since Covid and Brexit, all our efforts have gone to reducing queuing time and friction at the borders. We have managed to obtain the deployment of additional French police officers in St. Pancras. We are also investing in new and more numerous e-gates that will be deployed from the end of this year.

Eurostar connects several major European cities. Could you highlight the key routes and destinations served by Eurostar and the benefits of this international connectivity?
We are now operating across five countries and offer a wide variety of routes. London-Paris and Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam remain our main routes, but several other services are showing a high growth potential. This is particularly the case for the London-Amsterdam route, where demand has been very high since we launched the direct return service a few years ago.

Now that Eurostar and Thalys are one, we can focus on facilitating connecting journeys between the cross-Channel and Continental routes. With the new website, for example, it is easy and straightforward to book a London-Cologne ticket, or an Amsterdam-Cologne ticket, with a connection in Brussels.
It is important to point out that the potential of connections isn’t limited to our own network, but includes other domestic networks as well, so destinations such as Frankfurt, Lyon, Geneva, and many others can be offered as well.

Sustainability is an important aspect of modern transportation. Can you discuss Eurostar's sustainability initiatives and efforts to reduce its environmental impact?
To realise our ambition and become the backbone of sustainable travel in Europe, we have launched a series of initiatives to cut our carbon footprint.
All our trains are fully electric, and we are working to make that electricity even greener. In the Netherlands our trains have been powered by 100% wind since 2017, and as of 2023 that figure is 40% in the UK. We want to support the deployment of new renewable electricity across our five markets.
In addition, we are trialling onboard eco-driving that could enable our drivers to reduce energy usage by at least 5%.

The second key element of our sustainability strategy is better resource management and circularity. Our current efforts are already visible today by our passengers on board with our catering offer. We select high-quality ingredients, like organic products, ‘Rainforest Alliance’ certified coffee, certified sustainable fish.

Another concrete example is our increased focus on waste management, where our organic waste from our Premium menus is converted into compost, and the fact that we pay more attention to the packaging of the product we buy with an objective of ditching as much plastic as possible and banning single-use plastic products.

How does Eurostar innovate in terms of technology, services, and amenities to enhance the travel experience for passengers?
We are exploring new technology in particular in the context of check-in and border controls. The deployment of our SmartCheck system in St Pancras is an excellent example in this regard. Thanks to the pre-travel biometric registration on the SmartCheck app, passengers don’t need a ticket or passport anymore to exit the UK. This means that two out of the four checks have been automated. We hope to include the Schengen entry controls performed by the French police in SmartCheck soon.

We are also testing and deploying sensors in our main terminal to better monitor queues and adjust staff and border resources to the needs.

Safety is paramount in rail travel. What measures does Eurostar take to ensure the safety and security of its passengers and operations?
Safety is our first and foremost priority. Our network uses up to six different rail networks, including the Channel Tunnel, arguably one of large infrastructure with the highest safety and security standards in the world. We strive on nurturing a strong safety culture within the entire company up to the highest level.
As part of the Eurostar-Thalys merger, we applied for and obtained a single safety certificate from the European Railway Agency. This means that we respect high and uniform standards across our entire network, with harmonised processes and a single governance framework.

Safety also requires working closely with authorities, organising regular crisis exercises and feeding back critically when bad things happen. For instance, in the last 12 months, a particular effort has been made on better managing disruptions in times of heatwave.

Why did you join NBCC? 
NBCC provides a unique business network operating in two of our most important markets. Eurostar provides the physical link between the Dutch and British business communities which NBCC brings together. We also appreciate the high-level engagement opportunities such as the North Sea Neighbours Dinner, and the occasional support we receive from the Chamber when difficult topics come up.

Do you have any additional notes? 
We are proud to build the backbone of sustainable travel in Europe and we wouldn’t have been able to achieve this without the support of you – our partners – who help to ensure more passengers can enjoy the unique Eurostar travel experience: easy, fast and convenient. See you soon onboard our Eurostar trains!

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