How the new EES passport system will change your Eurostar journey

Michael Stuchbery
Michael Stuchbery - [email protected]
How the new EES passport system will change your Eurostar journey
The EU's new EES system will add an extra step to the departure process at St Pancras station in London. Photo: Henry Nicholls / AFP

The EU/Schengen area's new Entry/Exit System (EES) will impact non-EU travellers when it's eventually launched, not least those travelling on Eurostar's cross-channel trains. New details have been revealed for how the changes will affect those passengers.


The system for new biometric border checks, which have been in development for several years, is expected to be introduced in October - although there have been repeated calls for it to be delayed again. 

To meet the requirements of the new system, most non-EU travellers will need to undergo facial recognition scans and fingerprinting when first entering the Schengen area as well as having to enter personal details and answer routine questions.

The system will use this data to trace passenger movements - recording entry and exit dates into and out of the Schengen area, identify visa overstayers, and flag those with criminal or terrorist convictions for authorities. It will bring an end to the manual stamping of passports.

READ MORE: Your key questions answered about Europe's new EES passport checks

Due to juxtaposed borders between the UK and France, Eurostar passengers heading over the Channel to Paris or Brussels will have to carry out these scans and checks at St Pancras international station in London. 

These checks will be in addition to the security and passport screening that takes place at the station.

On Tuesday Eurostar chiefs released more details about how these checks will work in reality.


Changes at St Pancras

To facilitate the changes, €10 million will be spent on installing EES kiosks—projected to eventually be around 49 in number - split into three different areas. The number of e-gates will increase from 8 to 11 and the number of manual booths from 9 to 18. The number of French border control officers will increase from 12 to 24 by October.

Eurostar has indicated that ‘overflow’ kiosks for peak times will also be built, as will accessible kiosks for those with special needs. To make space for 28 of the new kiosks, the Benugo coffee shop will be moved.

Passengers required to complete EES registration will be funnelled first towards the three areas set aside for the EES kiosks before moving through to the main part of the check-in area, where they will go through check-in, security and passport checks with both UK and French border officers.

On the first time registering for EES, non-EU tourists and visitors will need to complete the digital registration. This will include a facial and fingerprint scans, passport scan and then a series of standardised questions such as "how long is your planned trip?" 


Passing through these kiosks is estimated to take at most 90 seconds per passenger. 

Non-EU nationals, including Britons who are legally resident in EU /Schengen countries do not need to register for EES, although it remains to be seen how this group will be dealt with once the system is up and running.

On subsequent trips through St Pancras non-EU travellers will still need to visit the EES kiosks to scan passports and facial images but fingerprints will not be taken so the time it takes is estimated at 37 seconds.

READ MORE: Eurostar could limit services over new biometric passport checks

The company has also insisted that they believe the new system will not mean passengers having to arrive at the station earlier than is currently advised - 45 to 60 minutes at normal times and 90 minutes at rush hour and peak periods.

In Paris there will be 18 new EES kiosks and seven new e-gates, whilst Brussels will install 10 new e-gates and four additional manual counters, according to Business Traveller.

While HS1, which runs that high-speed tracks on the British side, and London mayor Sadiq Khan have raised concerns that the new system could lead to lengthy queues and delays, Eurostar bosses have indicated they believe the new system will work.

Simon Lejeune, chief stations and security officer at Eurostar told a media briefing on Tuesday: "We are confident it won’t be a shit-show, because we have got the right set-up.

“We are not going to ask our customers to arrive earlier. We are confident, and our modelling supports this, that, end to end, we are still going to be operating within the current check-in times – and we are looking at reducing them.”

"Our aim is to put the passenger at the core of the design for EES and how we integrate that in the best way at St Pancras and other terminals. We will do that is by adding zero extra time on departure, we will not ask passengers to arrive earlier for the EES, we will maintain current check-in times," he said.



Comments (1)

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Mark 2024/05/22 16:12
I hope they have a system in place for people who cannot place their fingers flat on a screen. In that situation it can take up to 45 minutes if they can do it at all.

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