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Booking issue sees Scotland lose out on rail tourism

Eurostar has blamed "lack of demand" for its failure to fix a glitch preventing European travellers from buying tickets through London to Scotland.

Although travellers from anywhere in the UK can easily purchase tickets from local stations to dozens of European cities, potential visitors to Scotland and other tourist destinations in the UK are forced to buy separate tickets from different train operators for each leg of their journey, a potential disincentive to tourists unfamiliar with Britain's complex rail network with its diverse operators.

The anomaly also means that foreign visitors to Scotland do not benefit from a guaranteed connection in London. If delays elsewhere lead to missed connections, they must buy an expensive full fare ticket for a later train, with little chance of a refund.

VisitScotland's chief executive Malcolm Roughead acknowledged the "[technical] issues which have made it difficult for Eurostar to address this anomaly", adding that, given the importance of speed and convenience in determining travel decisions, "anything that makes their journey easier and more straightforward [would be] welcomed".

Users of Eurostar's website are required to use a pull-down menu to indicate which country they live in. UK residents are given the option of buying a through ticket from a local station to towns and cities in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland, with through fares available from more than a dozen stations in Scotland.

But equivalent options in the other direction are limited to London or ­Ebbsfleet and Ashford in Kent.

A spokeswoman for Eurostar said that the website is only able to calculate through fares to destinations in the UK in sterling.

"Unfortunately, we don't currently have the same arrangement for passengers wishing to book from European stations to UK stations outside of London," she said.

"This is because in order to make fares available from France and Belgium to UK stations through our Continental websites, we require both significant systems development and negotiation with the Association of Train Operating Companies of a euro fare range. This is something we are in discussions with ATOC about and at the current time it's not something we are looking to introduce as we have seen little demand for it."

According to VisitScotland, around 216,000 trips are made to Scotland from France and Belgium alone, attracting £133 million per year.

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