Monocolumn: Eurostar – Less French, More European

Monocolumn: Eurostar – Less French, More European

“Is there anything French left in your new trains?” That was the question that garnered guffaws in the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday, where the CEO of Eurostar, Nicolas Petrovic, was hosting a press conference to announce a £700m investment in its fleet.

  • 8 october 2010

Monocolumn-  Eurostar – less French, more European

Monocolumn is Monocle’s daily bulletin of news and opinion. Catch up with previous editions here.

“Is there anything French left in your new trains?” That was the question that garnered guffaws in the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday, where the CEO of Eurostar, Nicolas Petrovic, was hosting a press conference to announce a £700m investment in its fleet. That the question came from a fellow Frenchman representing Radio France was of visible chagrin to Petrovic. And the British Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, who sat to Petrovic’s right, couldn’t help but smile.

But the CEO’s answer was measured, well-rehearsed and vague, he’d clearly been expecting it. “Eurostar is a European company,” he said, “and the choice of the train is all about the commercial benefit to Eurostar and for the benefit of the client, it’s all about the client, about having more people choose rail travel.”

What had gotten up the Radio France journalist’s not inconsiderable nose was the glaring lack of French input into the new fleet. Eurostar has closed a deal with German train manufacturer Siemens that will see the newly formed Eurostar International Limited (now a single corporate entity owned by three shareholders: SNCF, SNCB and LCR) beef up its rolling stock with 10 new 400m-long trains, capable of carrying 20 per cent more passengers and reaching speeds of 320 km/h. Both the existing trains and the new e320s will receive interior styling and external livery by Italian industrial designers Pininfarina, famous for their work with Ferrari and Alfa Romeo – you can almost hear Philippe Starck choking on his Cancale oysters.

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