Passengers could face queues and extra checks when taking the Eurostar to Paris after Britain leaves the EU as France’s state rail operator bolsters border controls.

SNCF this week unveiled plans to refit Paris’s Gare du Nord, stating that the redevelopment would address “the challenges of reinforced border controls due to Brexit”.

Campaigners warned the need for the plan was “concrete evidence of the lengthy and costly delays” leaving the EU would cause, with the future of an existing special agreement that smooths the passport-checking process still uncertain.

A special agreement, known as the Treaty of Le Touquet, currently allows for both countries’ passport checks to take place as passengers board the train – meaning when they arrive they can walk straight out of the station without waiting.

But the treaty’s future is uncertain, with Brexit negotiations still up in the air and calls from Paris for it to be revisited. 

Travellers could also face additional checks as the UK leaves the customs union, while the EU is also pushing forward with plans to force travellers from the UK to apply for travel authorisation in advance, including paying a fee.

“This is concrete evidence of the lengthy and costly delays that will be caused by Brexit,” Labour MP Gareth Thomas, a supporter of the Best For Britain campaign said.

“We don’t have the cash to throw around rebuilding stations – not when people in this country are struggling to feed themselves and public services like schools, hospitals and police forces are being cut.

“We can stop this. We need a people’s vote on the Brexit deal, with the option to stay in the EU.”

Ports and airports around the Continent that see heavy traffic from Britain are currently in the process of overhauling their infrastructure to cope with Brexit. In the Netherlands, the port of Rotterdam and Schiphol airport have announced major investment programmes, with the Dutch government hiring 750 new customs officials.

Preparations in the UK itself are taking place at a slower pace, however. In Kent, holding areas to cater for lorries queueing to pass extra checks have been proposed in case of a “no deal” scenario in March – but are lagging well behind schedule.

This is concrete evidence of the lengthy and costly delays that will be caused by Brexit

Gareth Thomas MP

Though it is best known to British travellers as the terminus of the cross-channel train, Gare du Nord is also the home of intercity TGV services to the north of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, as well as services to Paris’s suburbs.

The redevelopment of the station is planned to be completed before 2024, when Paris is set to host the Olympics. SNCF says the wider redevelopment will accommodate passenger growth and also transform the surrounding district of Paris.

Last month The Independent revealed Germany’s state rail operator, Deutsche Bahn, had shelved advanced proposals to run high-speed services between London and Frankfurt, citing a significantly changed economic environment. The company said it would not comment on whether Brexit had played a part in its decision.

Eurostar has faced challenges with border control arrangements at Amsterdam and Rotterdam, where it has just started running services. Passengers currently have to change at Brussels for checks on the return journey because Amsterdam station lacks the right facilities: UK authorities require stations to have dedicated platforms physically walled off from others, as if they were a national border. 

These physical changes to stations are not always possible and require significant investment that limits the ability to trial new routes. 

Such problems are effectively unique to international rail services coming to Britain, because most other European countries are members of the Schengen passport-free area or allow passport checks on trains.

St Pancras, London’s Eurostar terminus, already has rarely-used facilities to check passports in its arrivals hall, so is unlikely to need a significant rebuild if the Le Touquet agreement were to end.

Guillaume Pepy, president of SNCF, said the wider Gare du Nord project “manifests a strong ambition for Paris Gare du Nord” while Patrick Ropert, chief executive of SNCF Gares & Connexions said it would be an opportunity to “transform part of a Parisian neighbourhood”.

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