This brings the total number of passengers carried on Eurostar services since November 14 1994 to 140 million.

Eurostar says traffic grew this year due to a busy summer for leisure travellers and the resumption of growth in the British economy coupled with the expansion of its summer service linking London with southern France.

However, the number of passengers being carried by Eurostar is well below the original forecasts for the service. In 1996, London and Continental Railway forecast that annual traffic would reach 21.4 million passengers by 2004. In 2007 Eurostar set itself a target of carrying 10 million passengers by 2010.

There are many reasons for cross-Channel passenger traffic failing to live up to expectations. These include the aborted introduction of both day and overnight services from British provincial cities to destinations in Continental Europe despite considerable investment in rolling stock, two serious fires in the Channel Tunnel which disrupted services, and onerous restrictions on the type of trains permitted to use the Channel Tunnel and strict border controls by the British government both of which have made it difficult to expand services to new destinations.