Eurostar has achieved a long-standing target to carry 10m passengers a year – a decade and a half later than expected.

The Anglo-French rail operator has finally broken through the 10m passenger mark as it is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2014.

Eurostar has carried 140m passengers since its first services departed London, Paris and Brussels on November 14 1994 but the company was loss-making for more than 17 years, only turning its first profit in 2011.

Eurostar was originally expected to reach 10m passengers a year by 1998 but the operator came up against stiff competition from the low cost airlines and suffered following events such as the 2005 London bombings, the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak and the global banking crisis.

In 2012 it narrowly missed out on its long-held ambition, despite a boost from the London Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, which raised passenger figures to 9.9m.

Eurostar, which is also planning a joint bid to run British domestic rail services on the East Coast Main Line, said 2013 passenger numbers had been lifted by a recovery in the UK economy as well as new services such as a winter ski route to the Swiss Alps.

“2013 has been a record breaking year for Eurostar,” said Nick Mercer, commercial director for Eurostar. “With a leap in passenger numbers as well as the introduction of new routes and new destinations, we are seeing growing demand from customers across Europe and indeed around the world.”

The UK Government recently announced it would sell the taxpayer’s 40pc holding in Eurostar as part of its latest infrastructure plan. France’s state-owned rail operator SNCF, which already owns 55pc of Eurostar, is seen by analysts as the most likely buyer of Britain’s stake, which is held through the state-owned London & Continental Railways and is expected to fetch up to £200m.

Belgium’s state rail operator owns the remaining 5pc of Eurostar.

Tags: eurostar, uk
Photo Credit: Eurostar Trains sit at St. Pancras Station in London. Richard Barrett-Small / Flickr