The trains connecting Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne will change their names this fall to adopt the Eurostar brand, considered better known.
Tuesday afternoon is the logo Eurostar and not Thalys which was affixed to the Brussels-Paris TGV. A nod to the forthcoming disappearance of the Thalys brand in favor of Eurostar, announced that day, and which will be effective in the third quarter. Reservation site, loyalty program… Tickets on the two networks (Paris-London, Amsterdam-Paris…) will be marketed under the same banner. With a star logo. ” We chose Eurostar because it has a higher reputation than Thalys outside the countries served. One in two Americans who travel by train on the Old Continent take Eurostar », emphasizes Gwendoline Cazenave, General Manager of Eurostar Group, born of the merger between Eurostar and Thalys.
This wedding project was launched in October 2019, then put on hold during the health crisis. It was finalized in May 2022, with the single brand being one of the visible realizations for passengers.
In this merger, SNCF, which had control of the two companies, kept it, with 55.75% of the capital of the new entity. The Patina Rail consortium, which federates the Caisse des dépôts du Québec and the British investment fund Hermes GPE, has a 25.7% share and the Belgian railways (SNCB), the remaining 18.5%. Barely launched, this group sets high goals: “In 2021, combining Eurostar and Thalys traffic, we transported 15 million passengers compared to 19 million in 2019, explains Gwendoline Cazenave. In 2030, we are aiming for 30 million customers. »
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To achieve this, Eurostar is betting on the desire to travel and the appetite for the train, which is more virtuous for the planet than the plane.“ We have 28% more reservations than in January 2019 at the same time,” argues Gwendoline Cazenave. Traffic is up 90% compared to the pre-Covid period. It would be even higher if the boarding formalities linked to the Brexit did not handicap him. Eurostar only runs 14 Paris-London round trips per day compared to 18 in 2019, because border controls that are too slow do not allow it to do more. The company estimates that its offer should return to normal in the second half, thanks to more fluid formalities.
A much needed recovery after the collapse during the Covid. Eurostar transported 1.6 million people in 2021 compared to 11.1 million in 2019. The group is therefore burdened with an abysmal debt (962 million euros). “In the second half of 2022, the business returned to profitability, which allows us to start paying down debt,” says Gwendoline Cazenave.
And the synergies should generate savings: several tens of millions from 2023 thanks to the adoption of a single IT system. But, even if the group is committed to maintaining all jobs, employees fear being victims of the merger. “The service that organizes train traffic is located in Lille for Eurostar and in Brussels for Thalys. We fear that everything will be concentrated in Brussels”,illustrates Philippe Corroyez, Unsa union representative at Eurostar.