Eurostar’s much vaunted £35m investment in design has been set back this week, as the company announced it is putting plans for luxury premium class interiors by Philippe Starck on ice to focus on lower class services.
Starck’s designs were unveiled last month in Paris (DW 5 June). They were to be implemented from next year. Now, according to a Eurostar spokesman, the planned launch of the premium carriages has been postponed ‘with no dates yet set’ for implementation.
‘The concept of a dedicated carriage for Premium First class passengers is on hold,’ he says. The launch of premium interiors will be ‘considered’ after 2005, the spokesman adds.
The sudden turnaround comes as the company faces up to growing competition from budget airlines.
Eurostar has always denied that it competes directly with the low-cost airlines, claiming that it differentiates itself by offering better pre-journey facilities and on-board ‘experiences’.
But the company is struggling. Passenger revenues fell by almost 3 per cent between June and September 2002, and volumes have dropped by over 10 per cent in the past two years.
In an effort to regain market share, the company is also slashing ticket prices from next week and hopes its new infrastructure, which will allow trains to reach 300 kilometres per hour will increase passenger enthusiasm for its cross-channel offer.
The news has no implications for Eurostar’s relationships with Starck Design or London graphics group GBH, claims Eurostar design manager Richard Hill.