TGV Eurostar Velaro E320 coming out of Channel Tunnel

Channel tunnel used even less in second corona year

2018, GetLink

The Channel Tunnel between France and the United Kingdom was used less last year than in 2020. This is what the tunnel’s manager Getlink reported. Eurostar trains carried a third fewer passengers through the tunnel than in 2020 and as much as 85 percent fewer than before the corona pandemic.

For the Eurostar, traffic was down 35 per cent for last year as a whole. In 2021, 1.6 million passengers used the Eurostar to travel between France and the United Kingdom. A year earlier there were 2.5 million.

The turnover of the Eurotunnel fell by 9 percent to 644 million euros compared to a year earlier. For the operator, 2020 was also a dramatic year due to travel restrictions. Compared to 2019, turnover was almost a third lower.

Market share ‘higher than ever’

Despite the drop in train journeys and revenue for Getlink, group CEO Yann Leriche notes that whenever passenger rail traffic was possible, their market share was high. “2021 was a year of contrasts. Getlink’s consolidated revenue has obviously been impacted by the effects of the crisis and the travel restrictions which persisted throughout the year. However, our passenger market share has never been so high, and the appetite of customers to use our services has been proven each time border crossing restrictions have been eased.”

The transport of goods via rail through the tunnel was less impacted by corona. Cross-Channel rail freight was down 5 per cent overall in 2021.


Thalys, known for the high-speed train between Amsterdam and Paris, did do better in 2021 than a year earlier. Last year, the famous red trains carried 2.7 million passengers, 8 percent more than the year before. However, it was almost two-thirds less than before the coronapandemic. In 2019, a record 7.8 million passengers were still counted. Financial figures have not yet been published.

In time, the name Thalys will disappear because the company will merge with Eurostar and the trains will carry that name. There are still some steps to be taken before the merger is a fact. For example, the plan still has to be submitted to the European Commission. That will probably happen at the beginning of this year.

New uses for the tunnel

Apart from rail and other traffic, Getlink also has plans to set up an electricity link through the Channel tunnel. By installing two direct current cables inside the Channel Tunnel, it will enable the electricity produced on either side of the Channel, to circulate between the two countries as needed. Called ElecLink, the project is waiting for final approval from for entry into service, which is expected for mid-2022.

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Author: Esther Geerts


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