Eurostar is having to cap the number of tickets it sells on some services due to long queues at border control.
The UK-to-Europe rail link is running some trains with 30% of seats empty, according to its chief executive Gwendoline Cazenave, who blamed hold-ups at passport control caused by a shortage of border staff and additional post-Brexit requirements.
She said that the first trains from London St Pancras, which have a capacity of 900 passengers, were running with 350 seats unsold due to “bottlenecks” at the station, which threatened to cause delays throughout the day.
She said the time it took to process passengers leaving London St Pancras had risen almost 30% compared with 2019. She said this was partly due to a lack of staff at passport control and partly due to the need for passengers to have their passport stamped since Brexit.
Passengers are now advised to arrive up to 90 minutes before their scheduled departure to allow enough time to get through passport control, three times longer than before the pandemic.
Cazenave said: "The thing is now we are not able to run the same transport offer as what we had before in 2019, because of bottlenecks in stations.
"We have a main issue in Eurostar terminals because of the new boarding conditions between the UK and EU, because of the impact of Covid, because of staff in the stations."
She said the issues were not impossible to tackle but required more border staff and better automation at the stations.
She revealed that service numbers were down on pre-pandemic figures and warned that cancelled routes, such as those to the Alps and Disneyland Paris, would not be reinstated until the problems on the main routes to cities such as Paris and Amsterdam were resolved.
Eurostar is currently running 14 services per day between London and Paris, compared with 18 in 2019.
Cazenave said: “As long as we are not able to operate as well as possible from a customer experience standpoint in London and Paris, why should we go to Bourg-Saint-Maurice 10 times a year?
“Our main focus now is about fixing this major issue and then we’ll think about what we do in the coming years for these kind of destinations.”
She was speaking as the Eurostar Group unveiled a new logo following last year’s merger between Eurostar and Thalys – which runs rail services in continental Europe – and announced that all its trains will operate under the Eurostar brand from later this year.
It is hoped this will lead to smoother ticket-buying and shorter connections for UK passengers travelling between London and German destinations including Cologne and Frankfurt via Brussels.