Eurostar-Thalys merger: UK to Europe train company’s rebrand, new logo and deal for Belgian operator explained

Eurostar has also revealed its London to Europe trains are carrying 40% fewer passengers than they were in 2019 as a result of Brexit red tape and border staff shortages

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As the operator of the rail route between London and Paris, as well as other European destinations including Amsterdam and Brussels, Eurostar is one of the world’s most famous train companies.

But the firm, which also carried passengers to Disneyland Paris until last year, is now sporting a new look following a merger with Belgian business Thalys. The deal was initially announced in May 2022.

It comes after Eurostar revealed passenger numbers through the Channel Tunnel have dipped compared to 2019 - the last year of normal travel before the Covid-19 pandemic. Brexit and other issues, including shortages of UK border staff, have hit the train firm’s finances.

It also follows a challenging 2022 for the train company, which saw it embroiled in an industrial dispute with the RMT union over staff pay and conditions. Strikes were called off at the 11th hour in December.

So, with Eurostar seeking to turn a new leaf in 2023, what is its new logo - and what is Thalys?

Eurostar and Thalys merged in May 2022 (image: AFP/Getty Images)Eurostar and Thalys merged in May 2022 (image: AFP/Getty Images)
Eurostar and Thalys merged in May 2022 (image: AFP/Getty Images)

What is the Eurostar-Thalys merger?

Eurostar and Belgian train company Thalys officially merged in May 2022.

The pair had first joined forces in September 2019, but had to wait until March last year for approval from the European Commission. Now under one banner - Eurostar Group - they are the largest international train operator in Western Europe.

Together, they have 51 trains and carried a combined 14.8 million passengers in 2022 - although this was down on an estimated 19 million in 2019. Eurostar Group hopes to carry 30 million passengers by 2030 by trumpeting the environmental benefits of train travel compared to flying or driving to Europe.

What is Eurostar’s new logo?

On Tuesday (24 January), Eurostar and Thalys announced they would be moving under one ‘Eurostar’ banner - although Thalys would still have a presence in the company’s new branding and logo.

Unveiled in Brussels, the decision to drop the Thalys name was said to have been made because Eurostar has more consumer awareness across both Europe and the world. It means Eurostar trains will now begin to appear in a sixth country - Germany - with passengers from London able to travel over to Cologne and Frankfurt.

According to industry news website Railway Gazette, a new brand identity will also roll out from October 2023. It will include a palette of “warmer shades” to represent Thalys’s bright red branding.

The new Eurostar logo will appear across all of its trains from October (image: AFP/Getty Images)The new Eurostar logo will appear across all of its trains from October (image: AFP/Getty Images)
The new Eurostar logo will appear across all of its trains from October (image: AFP/Getty Images)

A new logo will also be rolled out that ditches Eurostar’s old elongated ‘e’ in favour of a star. This logo was said by Eurostar to have been inspired by the l’Etoile du Nord (which translates to ‘North Star’ in English) - an old train service that was the first to connect Paris with Brussels and Amsterdam - and appeared on the first Eurostar trains in 1994.

Accompanying this new logo on trains will be a spark graphic, which Eurostar said would act “as a compass symbolising the brand’s purpose to spark new opportunities, connecting people, places, businesses, and cultures across borders”.

What did Eurostar say about passenger numbers?

It comes after Eurostar revealed its passenger numbers between the UK and Europe have taken a hit as a result of Brexit red tape and a lack of border officials.

The train operator’s CEO Gwendoline Cazenave said the time it takes to process passengers at London St Pancras was almost 30% longer than it used to be before Covid-19 and Brexit. Part of the problem is the post-Brexit requirement to stamp UK passports for outbound passengers.

Thalys operates trains from Belgium (image: AFP/Getty Images)Thalys operates trains from Belgium (image: AFP/Getty Images)
Thalys operates trains from Belgium (image: AFP/Getty Images)

These more onerous border checks mean customers are now having to arrive up to 90 minutes ahead of their departure time. Ms Cazenave said it had forced her firm to cap the number of customers per train to ensure queues and delays do not spiral out of control.

She said the first trains of the day from London to Paris and Brussels - which have capacity for 900 passengers - are running with 350 seats (39%) unsold. Doing this allows Eurostar to avoid delays as the day progresses, she added.

Additional reporting by PA