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Eurostar to let Ukrainian refugees travel to Britain for free on its trains

Channel tunnel high-speed rail operator joins other services around Europe in extending free travel

Eurostar is to let Ukrainian refugees fleeing to the UK travel on its trains for free, the company has announced.

The cross-channel high-speed rail operator joins other carriers around Europe in extending free travel to Ukraine nationals following the invasion of their country.

The company said people with a valid visa to enter the UK and a Ukrainian passport should speak to Eurostar staff in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam or Lille to be issued with a free ticket.

"To help Ukrainian nationals travelling to the UK, we can offer a free Eurostar ticket from any Eurostar station to London St. Pancras International," the company said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

The German, French, Dutch, Polish, and Czech state rail operators, as well as high-speed service Thalys, are among national railways to have already announced free travel for Ukrainian nationals.

Eurostar's announcement means people with no resources will now also be able to reach the UK by train if they can secure a visa.

Most European Union member states are operating an open door policy and have said they will give Ukrainians refuge without the need to apply for asylum.

Eurostar operates high-speed rail services between London and Paris, Brussels, Lille, Amsterdam and Rotterdam (AFP via Getty Images)

The Russian invasion is expected to displace millions of people, with hundreds of thousands of people already making their way to join family or seek safety in other countries.

But the UK government has not followed suit and is operating a much harsher policy, with only a limited relaxation of visa conditions for those with family member in already in Britain. The new conditions are so limited do not even cover adult children, their parents, brothers or sisters

Opposition party Labour says the UK’s visa system should be simplified and has suggested the exemption should cover more relatives, though they have stopped short of calling for an open door along the lines of the EU.

But Ukrainians who can obtain a visa will now be able to travel across the English Channel for free. In its statement, Eurostar said: "It is important to arrive with the necessary visa documents, as these will be checked by the UK Border Force during the check-in process. 

"The UK government is regularly reviewing the criteria for Ukrainian refugees to enter the UK, so we would strongly recommend contacting the British Embassy or checking the UK government website for the latest information." The company also clarified that it could not accept pets on trains at this time.

Eurostar operates high-speed rail services between London and the continent through the Channel Tunnel.