Project Overview

The plan is for the Transmanche Metro to operate on the high-speed rail infrastructure as part of the existing Eurostar services. It would connect London, Ebbsfleet, Ashford and Calais with the Cote d'Opale, West Flanders and Lille metropole.

Innovative aspects

  • The Channel Tunnel, which runs the beneath the English Channel at the Straights of Dover, has been in operation for rail services since 1994. Eurostar, the only international passenger operator on the high-speed rail line running through the Channel Tunnel, focuses mainly on capital-to-capital services. Within the RoCK project, Kent County Council together with Conseil Regional Nord-Pas de Calais have developed an ingenious business case to extend services to passengers who live along the route using existing train service.


  • The project started with the development of a business case to determine whether a stand-alone service for cities on either side of the Channel Tunnel would be viable; the results showed that it would not be. The next step was to produce a final business case to demonstrate the commercial viability of a Eurostar-operated service stopping three times a day – morning, lunchtime and evening – at Ebbsfleet, Ashford, Calais and Lille. The final business case was supported by four studies: a legal study showing ways of formalising relations contractually; a timetable study to determine how best to implement extra stops without disrupting services; an economic modelling study using standard railway forecasting techniques to show that the timetable changes could be delivered at a profit to the operator; and a technical feasibility study for Ashford resignalling.
  • The focus of the technical feasibility study was to find a cost-effective way to upgrade the signalling of the spurs that link the Ashford International station with the UK’s High Speed 1 line. The study gave birth to the subsequent Ashford Spurs project, which became part of the overall RoCK project and was  supported with RoCK funding. Eurostar has been playing a full and active role in the working group for the Ashford Spurs project. In fact, Kent County Council and Eurostar are now working closely with Network Rail, High Speed 1, Ashford Borough Council and the Department for Transport to support them in contract negotiations.
  • During the course of the project, Eurostar adapted its timetable to provide Calais Frethun with three daily services each way to London and Brussels as promoted by the business case. Ebbsfleet station currently has four services on the London to Brussels route, and Ashford has just one. The delivery of the Transmanche Metro project would see five each way at Ebbsfleet and three each way at Ashford. An enhanced service at Ashford will however be dependent on the completion of the Ashford Spurs signalling project. 


  • The issues around the cross-channel rail market are many and detailed, and the project may have benefitted from time for Nord-Pas de Calais and Kent to consult and reflect more widely before the initial tender was awarded.
  • Tips: network with stakeholder; formulate clear objectives with defined outcomes; and have a realistic approach to what is achievable.

Project ended December 2015