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London mayor calls for solution to border check delays for Eurostar passengers

London mayor calls for solution to border check delays for Eurostar passengers
 

After railway service Eurostar warned that the European Union’s planned biometric border checks could cause hour-long queues in London, the city’s mayor has called for preventing “potential chaos” for passengers.

Mayor Sadiq Khan called on Britain’s government not to wash its hands of issues around post-Brexit red tape surrounding the introduction of the Entry/Exit System (EES). The border control system requires residents of countries outside the EU and Schengen area, including the UK, to register facial and fingerprint biometrics.

HS1, the owner and operator of the line and stations between London and the Channel tunnel, has been warning that the infrastructure for EES checks at London’s St. Pancras rail station is “severely inadequate.”

Mayor Khan’s major concern is the effect of potential border delays on London’s £76 billion (US$95.8 billion) tourism industry. The new EES biometric checks are expected to come into operation in October which also marks the start of the “golden quarter” tourism season leading up to Christmas.

“With London’s economy roaring back after the pandemic, this sends a terrible signal to both tourists and businesses from around the world,” Khan says in a statement. “Ministers now need to offer HS1 and Eurostar all the support it needs to resolve these issues as a matter of urgency. Cuts to services and longer delays simply isn’t an option.”

At the beginning of February, HS1 wrote to members of the UK Parliament and the European Scrutiny Committee, highlighting issues in implementing the EES at St Pancras, including the shortages of pre-departure kiosks. The French government has so far only allocated 24 EES kiosks even though modeling shows that nearly 50 would be needed at peak times.

The company also points out that non-EU passengers are expected to take at least two minutes longer if the registration is carried out solely at the border. The European Commission and Frontex have confirmed the development of a mobile application for pre-registration but the timeline for the launch is still uncertain.

Services from London’s St Pancras station to the European continent recorded 18.6 million passengers in 2023.

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