The introduction of faster London-Paris and London-Brussels journey times helped Channel Tunnel train company Eurostar to a record year in 2007, it was announced today.
The company carried 8.26 million passengers last year - 5.1% more than in 2006. Ticket sales brought in £599m (€801.7m), a 15.5% rise on the 2006 total.
With the completion in November 2007 of the long-awaited London to Folkestone high-speed rail link - now known as High Speed 1 - Eurostar moved its headquarters from Waterloo station in south London to St Pancras, north of the River Thames.
From the start of the St Pancras operation on November 14 until the end of 2007, Eurostar saw an 11% increase in passengers compared with the same period in 2006. Ticket sales for the comparative periods were 20% up in 2007.
Business ticket sales last year rose 11.9% and have increased by more than 31% since 2005.
Growth in international markets - those not including the UK, France and Belgium - rose sharply last year, with ticket sales increasing 20.2% on the 2006 total.
The completion of the second and final stage of High Speed 1 - from north Kent to St Pancras - means that journey times for the 186mph Eurostar trains have been cut to two hours 15 minutes to Paris and to one hour 51 minutes to Brussels.
Eurostar chief executive Richard Brown said: "The launch of Eurostar services on High Speed 1 has begun a new era in short-haul travel between the UK and mainland Europe. The impact has been immediate: Eurostar's faster services, shorter travel times and carbon neutral journeys are winning over more travellers from the short-haul airlines.
"We expect to see this growth continue throughout 2008 as the impact of the new through fares from across the UK drives growth in the number of travellers using Eurostar from towns and cities north and south of London."