A business impacted by the loss of international trains, by JC Cothias

Published: 2 April, 2024 | Tags:

JC Cothias of MailXpertise
JC Cothias (video still)

JC is a French entrpreneur who has lived in Ashford for 25 years. He runs a business employing a number of French nationals.

His business is profoundly impacted by the loss of cross-Channel trains from Ashford and Ebbsfleet. Here he explains why.

This was the third presentation of the Petition Anniversay Webinar that took place on 20th March 2024. The webinar began with the petition analysis by BBET.

Who is JC Cothias?

Jean-Claude Cothias is the CEO of MailXpertise, which develops digital marketing automation platforms for companies such as Renault, Hugo Boss, Tesco, Currys and more. The company has a revenue of £4m and emply around 20 people.

He describes himself as belonging to the “Eurostar generation”. He was working in marketing in Paris and wanted to set up his own company, at a time when it was difficult to do this in France without large capital to incorporate a company.

Lured by a French friend who was finding the business environment more favourable in the UK, he hopped on a Eurostar to Ashford. He obtained loans from HSBC and support from the Prince’s Trust to found his first company. Since then he has started, developed and sold several companies, generated revenue, created jobs and paid taxes. He is proud of this but also grateful, and wants to defend the interests of the UK and of Ashford in particular.

Importance of international trains

His companies have always had a very strong connection with the continent, either for clients or partners or staff. Eurostar always played a role in the attractiveness of Ashford, he said.

“My activities have always required excellent connections to the continent. It has become a really important part of how we operate the business.”

JC Cothias

Most of JC’s business opportunities come from meeting clients and investors in person and attending fairs and events where they are gathered, to represent the company. Being able to go to Paris, Brussels or Lille in under two hours was absolutely vital for the business.

The travel is still very important but the extra cost, and more importantly the extra time commitment of doing it now has made things much more difficult.

“I used to go to Paris or Brussels, leaving in the morning and returning in the evening, being able to pack 15-20 meetings back to back. It was an incredible asset that allowed me to be very productive.”

He could also travel at the last minute to provide flexibility to help a client with an urgent problem, buying a ticket for the next day. This is now completely impossible. There are fewer Eurostars, they are always full and you can never get a ticket for the next day.

So now he has to book a hotel and expect to be away for two or three days to do what he could previously do on a day return. And JC can’t afford to be away from his business for two or three days every fortnight. “It’s a real problem”, he insisted.

In consequence, he and his staff have drastically cut back on their trips to Paris and Brussels. He estimates that in the past two years, his business has lost £1m in revenue with all the missed opportunities, and another £1m in lost investment.

All this means loss of taxes to the UK and even loss of employment for locals, because they they are now employing people on the continent to do the things they can no longer travel to do themselves.

How would he remedy the problem?

JC believes that Eurostar should fulfil their original commitment to serve the stations that put in investment for them. He also believes that the UK government should impose its will on this service and on its future competitors, to hold them to that commitment.