Eurostar Service Limits Possible Due to Upcoming Biometric Passport Checks

Eurostar Service Limits Possible Due to Upcoming Biometric Passport Checks

HS1, the company that owns and runs the Eurostar train line, warned that the introduction of new biometric border controls at London’s St. Pancras International train station might result in passenger caps and fewer train services.

“Inadequate” planning raises alarm bells

HS1 provided information to the European Scrutiny Select Committee, expressing concerns about the new Entry/Exit System (EES) plans. They believed that the current plans were “inadequate” and could cause long delays for passengers.

The EES will register entry and exit information on travelers from outside the European Union (EU) and replace passport stamping for UK citizens.

Mayor calls for urgent action

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has asked the UK government to quickly team up with HS1 and Eurostar to fix problems with the new fingerprint checks.

He said that with the current plans, there will be “chaos” at St. Pancras station during the busy Christmas travel season.

Long lines and fewer seats on Eurostar could damage tourism in London, which has already been struggling because of the pandemic.

Strict passport checks mean lengthy processing times

The new EES system requires non-EU citizens to register their travel details beforehand and provide fingerprints and face scans when arriving at border control kiosks.

HS1 estimates that fully processing each traveler will take a minimum of two extra minutes.

However, the French government has set up only 24 EES kiosks for travelers arriving at St. Pancras.

Calculations by HS1 suggest that about 50 of these kiosks are necessary to prevent long lines, especially during busy travel periods.

Infrastructure and design limitations add further obstacles

According to HS1, installing the digital EES system at St. Pancras train station is already tricky with the limited space. Also, the station is a protected historic site.

The lack of queuing capacity will also make it difficult to process all the passengers traveling on Eurostar’s 14 trains to Paris each day. These trains can hold up to 900 passengers each.

Travel industry urges action to save UK’s reputation

Business leaders and travel associations urge the government to address the anticipated delays in the EES to ensure that tourists can still easily visit the UK and that the country remains an appealing tourist destination.

However, officials from the government have not responded or promised to fix the problems that HS1 and Mayor Khan have pointed out.

Upcoming ETIAS could add further headaches

The implementation of the EES will affect the upcoming European Travel Information and Authorization System (EES).

Once launched in 2025, ETIAS will mandate pre-travel screening for visitors from over 60 countries, including the UK, outside the EU Schengen Zone.

Adding another layer of advance approval risks compounding passport control delays.

Issues with the EES will likely affect ETIAS’ already delayed launch date.

Tighter borders challenge post-Brexit freedom of movement

Brexit was sold to UK citizens partly on the promise of regaining control over immigration. 

However, the reality of installing rigorous biometric checks could make travel to Europe more difficult for Britons.

Meanwhile, new barriers may make it harder for families, workers, and students to immigrate under the new security checks.

Time will tell whether Brexit achieves the desired control over borders, or simply more red tape.

UK government scrambling for solutions

With the Brexit transition over, the UK government is in a hurry to set up the right staff, technology, and tools for smoothly checking Eurostar passengers’ biometrics.

Failure to manage this quickly could cause travel problems and restrictions that might slow down the economy’s recovery.