Eurostar has launched the first contactless biometric corridor in the rail industry, preempting the introduction of the Entry/Exit System which will establish a EU-owned directory of data from third-country nationals travelling into the European Union. Although the automated Entry/Exit system will be installed at external border points of the Schengen Area, i.e. airports and seaports, the initiative looms large over international rail connections throughout mainland Europe which support tourism in and out of the EU.

Digitalising touchpoints in airports, train stations, and at seaports would fulfil government quotas for efficient, easy security checks that do not interfere with the user experience.

The system is developed by British biometrics company, iProov, which has been in production since 2021 to replace regular and manual border checks. It leverages facial recognition technology to identify travellers as they walk instead of using e-gates. “SmartCheck” will pop up at St Pancras station, in London, saving processing time of Eurostar’s Business Premier and Carte Blanche passengers who will be offered first access to the fast biometric face screening. The dedicated SmartCheck corridor means significant time and pre-advanced flight procedures will be cut, averting unnecessarily long queues and physical exit checks by Eurostar staff.

Only baggage inspection and one passport check through the French border will remain the same.

Premium business customers have priority to use the first corridor for traveler screening. The facilitation of biometric systems does not negate the requirement to carry a passport which is still mandatory for any, while complementing new digital travel solutions like the Digital Travel Credential (DTC). Passengers must present their valid passport to French authorities on inbound journeys into the EU.

iProov’s solution, which was fully funded at trial stage by the Department for Transport (DfT) London, will be operational from 18 July, 2023 following the success of trials completed between December 2021 and April 2022 with their partner, Entrust.

Eurostar Group’s CEO, Gwendoline Cazenave, said: “Providing a seamless station experience to our customers is a priority for Eurostar: we continue looking for solutions to increase capacity in stations and simplify the passengers’ flows. SmartCheck in St Pancras International station is a solution for a faster and seamless check-in experience. By introducing SmartCheck, we become the first rail travel operator to adopt biometric face verification. This innovation will enhance our customer departure journey, which is crucial to provide Eurostar’s unique travel experience.”

Eligible customers can download the SmartCheck app on the Apple App Store or Google Play where their flight and passenger information can be preloaded including face verification and tickets.