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Help requested with research on Eurostar and border controls at St.P

I'm trouble -making again ;) and would like to seek your help.

I'm delving into why Eurostar refuse to re-open Ebbsfleet (and Ashford) stations. They've asserted that its because the UK Border Force say they cannot provide the necessary staff for passport control there, unless they divert staff from St.P. Since  whenever I used Ebbsfleet, there was only one guy checking passports, I considered that to be a load of bollocks. However further delving is throwing up some odd stuff.

So here are my questions for anyone who has boarded Eurostar at St. Pancras recently:

Can you confirm that *somebody*  checked your passport, (or maybe there was an e-Gate) ?

If it was a human, did they appear to be Border Force or did they perhaps have the logo of this company on their uniform?

Any other knowledge which would shed light on this would be gratefully received too. The goal is to restore Ebbsfleet Eurostar services! 



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Comments

  • I was on the Eurostar a few weeks ago. There was a (human) passport check. I do not recall their service livery 
  • I went through StP in May; I don't remember UK Borders checking passports, but I think a French/Belgian guy did...
  • Pedro45 said:
    I went through StP in May; I don't remember UK Borders checking passports, but I think a French/Belgian guy did...
    That's interesting already. At Ebbsfleet there were always two checks, a UK guy with a handheld scanner as you walked in, and then after bag security a bored French guy in a booth. I've only been St. P once myself a while ago and can't remember the set-up. But the idea that Priti Patel's Home Office would happily leave this to the French seems pretty amazing to me. 

    It's important because the Eurostar CEO ( a French bod) told a UK Parliamentary Committee that the reason he could not re-open Ebbsfleet was the reason mentioned above. If UKBF are happily sub-contracting it to the French at St. P. he surely knows that, and has therefore lied to a Parliamentary Committee. Even Rupert Murdoch understood that you don't do that. 
  • I went with my youngest to Euro Disney in half term and had to go via French Passport control at St P (human)

    The most painful part of the trip was the UK border control when we got back which took about half hour to get through 
  • mendonca said:
    I'm there today, so will take a look. 

    I remember the two that you mentioned above being present. Mitie scanning your passport into a computer, then over to a human check. The e gates have been 'broken' for about a year now. 

    The journey to Ebbs would have been 10 minutes for me, so I support this!
    Brilliant, thank you. My understanding is there should be first a UK check, (but possibly by the private contractor which would be a major discovery alone), and then a separate French one.
  • Went by Eurostar to Paris via StP three weeks ago. 

    Bloody annoying as I used to board at Ebbsfleet.  

    At StP I showed my passport at both U.K. and French border check … however did not check for any logo on uniform.  

    I got through both checks reasonably quickly bearing in mind that lots of people were travelling … however nowhere near as quick as Ebbsfleet used to be.  

    I am also very dubious about the rationale for the stations remaining closed. It took no time whatsoever to check my passport, literally seconds.  
  • I went through in June. Mitie were manning the queue, not sure about the passport stations as the queue was getting out of control so I was in the lucky batch that was diverted to the egates. 

    All European passports and business class users were being diverted this way to ease the queue. So they do work, when they want them to. 

    Was a single french guy on the other side of the egates that was stamping, didn’t cause any delays. 

    Thought it was odd at the time, glad I got to feed it in to a @PragueAddick campaign!

  • stonemuse said:
    Went by Eurostar to Paris via StP three weeks ago. 

    Bloody annoying as I used to board at Ebbsfleet.  

    At StP I showed my passport at both U.K. and French border check … however did not check for any logo on uniform.  

    I got through both checks reasonably quickly bearing in mind that lots of people were travelling … however nowhere near as quick as Ebbsfleet used to be.  

    I am also very dubious about the rationale for the stations remaining closed. It took no time whatsoever to check my passport, literally seconds.  
    Good info. Somebody is telling porkies over this. And while the prime suspect is the Home Office, I don’t trust the Eurostar guy either. They are now part of Thalys, and nobody among the European rail activist gang has a good word to say about Thalys. The potential solution might be a competitor through the tunnel, but a competitor would want to provide new services, most obviously direct into Germany, but that would require new “ UK Border” structures in German stations and that has always been an issue. DB had planned to run a service from Frankfurt 10 years ago but this was one of the reasons it failed to start
  • The only excuse/justification that I have seen to be true is that it takes 15 seconds to stamp each passport. All the rest, agree with you there Prague.
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  • Surely the true reason is they’ve stopped it for commercial reasons?
  • Aren’t they stopping the Disney station from doing this as well soon…
  • Surely the true reason is they’ve stopped it for commercial reasons?
    Yes, broadly. Thats the view of the Euroactivists, in the sense that Eurostar cannot be arsed with Ebbsfleet while they can charge sky-high prices with the current  timetable. But that means their CEO lied to a Parliamentary Committee
  • Has Eurostar ever properly ran out of Stratford International?
  • sam3110 said:
    Has Eurostar ever properly ran out of Stratford International?
    Never. I am not 100% sure, but think I read it was never planned to do so. In which cas the obvious question is “International”, WTF?
  • Mitie performs the first few checks (general baggage and a passport scan onto a system). Then over to the French police for the final check.



  • Went through twice this year. Both times checked by Border Force and then by French police
  • I don't believe that Eurostar have hidden the fact that it simply impractical and uneconomical for them to run a "normal" train service on their routes into London. (Thalys services will soon also be rebranded as "Eurostar").

    Their intention is to maintain or even cut current service levels and fill the trains with "dedicated" passengers who, for whatever reason, are willing to pay a high price for their trip. They blame this on the need for baggage / passport checks at any station where trains pick up, the cramped conditions at St Pancras and the exorbitant access costs to HS1 and the channel tunnel.

    Stopping at Ebbsfleet or Ashford simply introduces too many logistical and staffing problems which might detract from and / or delay the high-quality core service they wish to operate.

    This is completely the opposite situation to that on many other high-speed lines (such as Barcelona - Madrid) where multiple companies are flooding the market with very cheap prices to gain market share!

    I have gathered this impression by reading press releases to various railway magazines and newspaper articles. Don't think there's anything dishonest about it.  It's just sh*t.
  • I don't believe that Eurostar have hidden the fact that it simply impractical and uneconomical for them to run a "normal" train service on their routes into London. (Thalys services will soon also be rebranded as "Eurostar").

    Their intention is to maintain or even cut current service levels and fill the trains with "dedicated" passengers who, for whatever reason, are willing to pay a high price for their trip. They blame this on the need for baggage / passport checks at any station where trains pick up, the cramped conditions at St Pancras and the exorbitant access costs to HS1 and the channel tunnel.

    Stopping at Ebbsfleet or Ashford simply introduces too many logistical and staffing problems which might detract from and / or delay the high-quality core service they wish to operate.

    This is completely the opposite situation to that on many other high-speed lines (such as Barcelona - Madrid) where multiple companies are flooding the market with very cheap prices to gain market share!

    I have gathered this impression by reading press releases to various railway magazines and newspaper articles. Don't think there's anything dishonest about it.  It's just sh*t.
    I hope whilst reading those railway magazines you tucked them discreetly inside the latest copy of fiesta or escort.
    We don’t want everyone getting over excited.
  • Hi @stevexreeve,

    I think I've probably read the same articles as you, and had gained a similar impression. However the reason for my sudden activity, and this thread, is that the Chair of the Transport Select Committee, Huw Merriman MP, asked Eurostar specifically to clarify why it was not re-opening Ebbsfleet and Ashford. The then CEO, Jacques Damas, responded in writing on 26 September, and you can read it here. You will find it full of the excuses you've already mentioned plus a few more besides, however if you read carefully you'll note that, with one exception, none of them relate specifically to the two stations, other than an implication that they cannot for various reasons run more trains than what they do now, and what they run now isn't enough (so re-opening the two stations would bring even more demand that they cannot fulfil) 

    And the exception? It is this: (my emphasis in bold)

    "...Re-opening the intermediate stations (where demand and yields are much lower) would make things even worse as it would take away from London vital border police resources. The reality of traffic numbers is such that a police officer controls 5 to 10 times more passengers in our large terminals than in intermediate stations" 

    There we have it. For whatever reason, he is implying that the border police resources allocated to Eurostar are fixed. If he re-opened Ebbsfleet the BF, he implies, would say, "fine, we will have to transfer people from St.P to Ebbsfleet, and that will cause congestion at your main station, you OK with that"? 

    Now my problem with this is that the number of extra BF people needed at Ebbsfleet is minimal. In fact I never recall seeing more than one on duty at any one time. And the last outgoing train from Ebbsfleet was at or before 14.00. Job done, no late shift.  So I found the apparent excuse from the BF preposterous.

    Naturally my first step has been to submit a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office asking for clarification of BF staffing levels at Ebbsfleet during 2019 so we can get a clear idea of the actual numbers needed. And naturally the fuckers  have tried to block my request on predictably shaky grounds. Well I have plenty of experience with that sort of thing, and an internal review (per FOI law) will now be requested.
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  • Hi @stevexreeve,

    I think I've probably read the same articles as you, and had gained a similar impression. However the reason for my sudden activity, and this thread, is that the Chair of the Transport Select Committee, Huw Merriman MP, asked Eurostar specifically to clarify why it was not re-opening Ebbsfleet and Ashford. The then CEO, Jacques Damas, responded in writing on 26 September, and you can read it here. You will find it full of the excuses you've already mentioned plus a few more besides, however if you read carefully you'll note that, with one exception, none of them relate specifically to the two stations, other than an implication that they cannot for various reasons run more trains than what they do now, and what they run now isn't enough (so re-opening the two stations would bring even more demand that they cannot fulfil) 

    And the exception? It is this: (my emphasis in bold)

    "...Re-opening the intermediate stations (where demand and yields are much lower) would make things even worse as it would take away from London vital border police resources. The reality of traffic numbers is such that a police officer controls 5 to 10 times more passengers in our large terminals than in intermediate stations" 

    There we have it. For whatever reason, he is implying that the border police resources allocated to Eurostar are fixed. If he re-opened Ebbsfleet the BF, he implies, would say, "fine, we will have to transfer people from St.P to Ebbsfleet, and that will cause congestion at your main station, you OK with that"? 

    Now my problem with this is that the number of extra BF people needed at Ebbsfleet is minimal. In fact I never recall seeing more than one on duty at any one time. And the last outgoing train from Ebbsfleet was at or before 14.00. Job done, no late shift.  So I found the apparent excuse from the BF preposterous.

    Naturally my first step has been to submit a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office asking for clarification of BF staffing levels at Ebbsfleet during 2019 so we can get a clear idea of the actual numbers needed. And naturally the fuckers  have tried to block my request on predictably shaky grounds. Well I have plenty of experience with that sort of thing, and an internal review (per FOI law) will now be requested.
    Agreed. 

    Happy to help with this if I can.  
  • sam3110 said:
    Has Eurostar ever properly ran out of Stratford International?
    Never. I am not 100% sure, but think I read it was never planned to do so. In which cas the obvious question is “International”, WTF?
    It couldn't be called Stratford because that's already there.  I love the fact, in a very geeky way, that you get on a train coming from Faversham at Bromley South then off a train at Stratford International that's going to Faversham.  Its significantly cheaper than going via Faversham.

    Anyway, as you were.
  • Pull the emergency cord when you get to the Medway
  • Thanks to everyone for their responses, especially @mendonca, who I think may have put himself at some risk of trouble by taking those photos. ;)  Incidentally in the last photo I am fascinated by what that guy is doing apparently sitting down in the middle of the second e-Gate from the right? 

    I am not sure what to make of the involvement of a private contractor such as Mitie in these activities. I've read today another Gov. document which is an independent review of the Border Force commissioned by Patel herself. It makes clear that BF is understaffed and fails to recruit effectively. In that situation I suppose we'd rather have private contractors checking passports, than hellish queues. But I thought passport checking is supposed to be Really Important on the non-Schengen island, is it really Ok to sub-contract it? 

    Anyway in the meantime I've whacked in my FOI internal review request. I've expanded on the nature and extent of the public interest in the answer. However at the end I've also suggested a compromise whereby they give me the costs, rather than the headcounts, but at all three stations, in 2019. Maybe I'm going soft in my old pensionable age...
  • Thanks! He was just reprogamming a dead terminal. Was tempted to ask him to program my new passport (from 9 months ago) to work on e-gates which it has failed to do once for a Eurostar or Airport service. 
  • I used Eurostar two weeks ago.
    At the "British Border control", I just put my open passport face down. I don't remember the uniform of the person that was there to help.
    Then on to French Border Control, where the passport stamping would have been quicker if the guy hadn't read a full newspaper article on his phone, in Le Monde, before stamping my passport. I suspect that he read an article between each passenger.
  • Hi @stevexreeve,

    I think I've probably read the same articles as you, and had gained a similar impression. However the reason for my sudden activity, and this thread, is that the Chair of the Transport Select Committee, Huw Merriman MP, asked Eurostar specifically to clarify why it was not re-opening Ebbsfleet and Ashford. The then CEO, Jacques Damas, responded in writing on 26 September, and you can read it here. You will find it full of the excuses you've already mentioned plus a few more besides, however if you read carefully you'll note that, with one exception, none of them relate specifically to the two stations, other than an implication that they cannot for various reasons run more trains than what they do now, and what they run now isn't enough (so re-opening the two stations would bring even more demand that they cannot fulfil) 

    And the exception? It is this: (my emphasis in bold)

    "...Re-opening the intermediate stations (where demand and yields are much lower) would make things even worse as it would take away from London vital border police resources. The reality of traffic numbers is such that a police officer controls 5 to 10 times more passengers in our large terminals than in intermediate stations" 

    There we have it. For whatever reason, he is implying that the border police resources allocated to Eurostar are fixed. If he re-opened Ebbsfleet the BF, he implies, would say, "fine, we will have to transfer people from St.P to Ebbsfleet, and that will cause congestion at your main station, you OK with that"? 

    Now my problem with this is that the number of extra BF people needed at Ebbsfleet is minimal. In fact I never recall seeing more than one on duty at any one time. And the last outgoing train from Ebbsfleet was at or before 14.00. Job done, no late shift.  So I found the apparent excuse from the BF preposterous.

    Naturally my first step has been to submit a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office asking for clarification of BF staffing levels at Ebbsfleet during 2019 so we can get a clear idea of the actual numbers needed. And naturally the fuckers  have tried to block my request on predictably shaky grounds. Well I have plenty of experience with that sort of thing, and an internal review (per FOI law) will now be requested.
    To be honest my reading of all this is that Eurostar are basically saying that, as a "private" company owned mainly by the French government, there is currently no advantage gained by stopping any trains at Ebbsfleet or Ashford.

    For this to happen, Eurostar would need some form of subsidy to make it worth their while.

    I agree that pinning half the reason (point 2 of 2!)  on British border forces is rather misleading.

    But within the context of the whole letter, the implication is that in order to run a couple of trains per day from Ebbsfleet you need British Police, French Police, Baggage checkers, staff on the platform, staff to check tickets as well as staff to offer general support for passengers with problems. All these people would be much more efficiently and profitably deployed at St. Pancras!

    It's crazy but potential travellers from Ebbsfleet can simply catch a Javelin into St Pancras and come out again. I doubt that many passengers are actually completely put off using Eurostar!

    The real fight must be to somehow persuade the government that HS1 and the channel tunnel should operate for the economic benefit of everyone and not just handed to private companies to do with as they please. It's not really fair to expect a private company to have a social responsibility when their primary concern must be to their shareholders and employees!
  • It's crazy but potential travellers from Ebbsfleet can simply catch a Javelin into St Pancras and come out again. I doubt that many passengers are actually completely put off using Eurostar!

    Big presumptious comment. Don't forget Ashford too. Quite some costs to add, let alone time. 
  • mendonca said:
    It's crazy but potential travellers from Ebbsfleet can simply catch a Javelin into St Pancras and come out again. I doubt that many passengers are actually completely put off using Eurostar!

    Big presumptious comment. Don't forget Ashford too. Quite some costs to add, let alone time. 
    The decision for many it is fly v train. And don't forget it's not just Paris. You used to be able to get to Amsterdam from Ebbsfleet to Amsterdam pretty quickly. Now going vis StP it would take a lot longer than via Gatwick. 
  • edited November 24
    Follow That Camel 1967  The EOFFTV Review

    Ashford earlier this week.
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