top cx logo
cx logo
Explorearrow down
search icon

Eurostar to provide contactless travel from UK to France

It will soon be possible to board the Eurostar without showing a ticket or a passport, thanks to new facial recognition technology. 

Biometric entry corridors are to be installed at London St Pancras station, meaning passengers will not need to touch hardware or come into contact with other people during the identification process before travel.

The new corridors will be lined with cameras that use facial recognition technology to confirm passengers’ identities before they board the train.

The technology, made by iProov, was approved and funded by a competition to revolutionise rail travel run by the UK Department for Transport.

Health benefits in Covid-19 era

The facial recognition technology, which has already been trialled in some airports, was originally created to reduce queues and improve security. 

However, in the current global health climate, it may also provide other benefits for passengers. 

Andrew Bud, founder and CEO of iProov, said: “What started off as a project to reduce travel congestion and keep passengers moving is now going to help keep people safe in a pandemic world through social distancing and contactless interaction.”

He added: “There are no gates and no fumbling around with scraps of paper and bar codes. You can reduce your interactions with people for border checks and it helps to limit queues, reserve human resources, and enforce social distancing.”

Read more: How artificial intelligence is changing security

Read more: Cameras on Paris Metro to check on masks

Security concerns over data and surveillance

However, opponents have raised security concerns over the new technology, suggesting that increased surveillance is a heavy price to pay for the sake of convenience.  

Jenny Brennan, a researcher at the Ada Lovelace Institute, said: “There are questions of the underlying data. Where it’s going, how it’s being stored, and how that information…is made available to people when they make the trade-off between ease and concerns around surveillance.”

While passengers will not be forced to use the technology, she says, they may feel pressured to if there are long queues elsewhere. Additionally, Eurostar has not explained if and how they will share information gathered via the new security measures with police and other law enforcement bodies. 


Opt-in system for facial recognition

Passengers who wish to use the technology when boarding the Eurostar will have to opt-in to do so. 

Although the details of the system have not yet been specified, it is thought that passengers could be asked to send Eurostar a copy of their ID and recent photograph either when they reserve tickets online, or via the Eurostar app before travel.

Then, at London St Pancras station, travellers using the “biometric corridor” would enter the contactless travel area before boarding the train. 

In the corridor, facial recognition technology would check the travellers face against a “digital manifest” created from the identification they provided. Iproov says their technology is able to identify that a passenger travelling through the corridor is a real person, as well as the correct person, as listed on the booking. As such it cannot be fooled by photos, videos, deep fakes or masks, iProov said.

Once a passenger has passed through the corridor and their identity has been approved, they will receive a message confirming their identity documents are secure, and do not need to be shown again before they reach their destination.

Travellers without smartphones will be able to use kiosks in London St Pancras station to complete the same process.

The technology is currently expected to be in operation in London by March 2021.  

Related stories

France set to test facial recognition security cameras

French debate on facial recognition

Nice Carnival cameras to test recognition software

Stay informed:
Sign up to our free weekly e-newsletter
Subscribe to access all our online articles and receive our printed monthly newspaper The Connexion at your home. News analysis, features and practical help for English-speakers in France

Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
featured helpguide
Healthcare in France*
Featured Help Guide
- Understand the French healthcare system, how you access it and how you are reimbursed - Useful if you are new to the French healthcare system or want a more in-depth understanding - Reader question and answer section Aimed at non-French nationals living here, the guide gives an overview of what you are (and are not) covered for. There is also information for second-home owners and regular visitors.
Get news, views and information from France
You have 2 free subscriber articles left
Subscribe now to read unlimited articles and exclusive content
Already a subscriber? Log in now