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Eurostar Ski Train service will not run in 2020/21

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Just received an email from Eurostar to say they will not be running the ski train service from St Pancras to Bourg St Maurice this coming season 2020/21.

Sad
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Not really a surprise. In an age where their business model is in jeopardy a niche service would hardly be a priority.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Copying the full message from them

Quote:
Hello Customer,

We’re writing to let you know that we unfortunately won’t be running our ski trains during the 2020-21 winter season. We’re sorry to get in touch with such disappointing news.

This is a decision we’ve made with a great deal of sadness. It’s been an absolute pleasure to take thousands of travellers direct from St Pancras to the Alps over the years. But in the wake of the coronavirus and a challenging travel market, we’ve had to make some changes to our services, focusing on our main routes with the highest demand.

As you’ve travelled on our ski trains in the past, we appreciate that this news might come at a time when you were considering booking for next season. You can still travel with us on any of our other routes, including our direct trains to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Disneyland® Paris. Head over to eurostar.com if you’d like a little destination inspiration.

We hope to see you on board one of our trains again soon.

The Eurostar team
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Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
Not really a surprise. In an age where their business model is in jeopardy a niche service would hardly be a priority.
I'm sure that's true, but in the times I've used it in the last three winters even the quietest weeks of the season the train was 90%+ full. If a service with a high load factor can't make money for them I'm not sure what will. I'd guess it was the uncertainty that's killed it, rather than a successful if niche service.
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rob@rar wrote:
Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
Not really a surprise. In an age where their business model is in jeopardy a niche service would hardly be a priority.
I'm sure that's true, but in the times I've used it in the last three winters even the quietest weeks of the season the train was 90%+ full. If a service with a high load factor can't make money for them I'm not sure what will. I'd guess it was the uncertainty that's killed it, rather than a successful if niche service.


Really surprised like you to get that email. Used it for last 3 years and seemed damned busy whenever we did. Driving for a week is not really an option for us so flying to will now look at Eurostar to Paris and Paris to Bourg.
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rob@rar wrote:
Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
Not really a surprise. In an age where their business model is in jeopardy a niche service would hardly be a priority.
I'm sure that's true, but in the times I've used it in the last three winters even the quietest weeks of the season the train was 90%+ full. If a service with a high load factor can't make money for them I'm not sure what will. I'd guess it was the uncertainty that's killed it, rather than a successful if niche service.


Yep it won't be the fact that it doesn't make money but probably the fact that running once a week it doesn't make enough money to offest to non neglible risk that a) passengers won't want to travel on trains for long journeys and b) quarantines or localised lockdowns might kill the service at peak weekends.
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rob@rar wrote:
Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
Not really a surprise. In an age where their business model is in jeopardy a niche service would hardly be a priority.
I'm sure that's true, but in the times I've used it in the last three winters even the quietest weeks of the season the train was 90%+ full. If a service with a high load factor can't make money for them I'm not sure what will. I'd guess it was the uncertainty that's killed it, rather than a successful if niche service.


maybe they cant run it 90% full with social distancing, so if it may become not financially viable.
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Mr.Egg wrote:
maybe they cant run it 90% full with social distancing, so if it may become not financially viable.
I've not been on public transport since before lockdown. Is every service cutting capacity to provide space for social distancing? Planes, trains, buses?
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@Dave of the Marmottes, I agree with you. Shocked Shocked Shocked Laughing
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A bit sad, even though I haven't used for the last 2 seasons and wasn't going to for the next one. It's so much more pleasant than flying.

Eurotunnel will probably get a lot of bookings in the next few days
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rob@rar wrote:
Mr.Egg wrote:
maybe they cant run it 90% full with social distancing, so if it may become not financially viable.
I've not been on public transport since before lockdown. Is every service cutting capacity to provide space for social distancing? Planes, trains, buses?


No idea, but could have 2x countries with 2x different rules covid related rules?
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@rob@rar, I’ve not been on public transport either recently but have received an email from TransPennine Express saying they’ve reduced capacity on all services - AFAIR, to 20 pax per carriage. Assume they’re not alone in doing that
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@rob@rar, only been on local buses a couple of times, but approx 3 out of 4 seats taped off ,and no standing , so a significant reduction of potential passenger space
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
This is the same as the services to the south of France. Apparently (via man in seat 61) Eurostar say it is impractical to run the longer distance trains with no catering and insisting all passengers wear masks. Seems odd as various sleeper trains are running again including a new one from Salzburg to Sylt.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
According to Eurostar:

Quote:
New seating arrangements on board
We’ve made some changes to our seating plan to make sure everybody has plenty of space on board.To ensure every other seat is left empty, some passengers may find their coach and seat number has changed.


It must be demand related - or, and I am totally speculating here:

1) stations in the alps do not have the facilities/space to screen passengers for health checks if required and maintain any form of social distancing
2) significant percentage of tickets booked through UK tour operators who want full refunds for tickets if services disrupted vs the terms and conditions Eurostar are offering on direct ticket sales
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It seems a little premature to decide now on what the position will be in December-March,when things could change over the next 6 months - for better or worse. A lot of people are holding off booking ski holidays for now, so if things improve they could probably decide to offer the service in say October and still fill the train.
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ecureuil wrote:
It seems a little premature to decide now on what the position will be in December-March,when things could change over the next 6 months - for better or worse. A lot of people are holding off booking ski holidays for now, so if things improve they could probably decide to offer the service in say October and still fill the train.


My thoughts too. Incredibly early to make this call, very surprised. Still won’t stop us going though
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may be they need to buy the slots and arrange rolling stock/crew now
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Since Eurostar has run ski train services since 1997, this is sad news indeed and it's not termed a 'suspension' of service. So let's hope the Ski Train is restored once the crisis is over.

A Eurostar ski timeline ...

1988: Construction of the Channel Tunnel begins
1994: The tunnel opens, and Eurostar starts operations. I successfully swung a ticket on the inaugural 'press' train from Waterloo by explaining I'd like to be the first to carry a pair of skis through the tunnel (somewhat off-season, involving a return trip to Paris!). Reported that for 'Ski Survey' magazine that autumn.
Dec 1997. The Eurostar 'Ski Train' to Bourg St Maurice begins.
Nov 2007. Eurostar's London terminus switches to St Pancras International, with the opening of the 'HS1' track to the tunnel.
Dec 2012. A connection from London/Ashford to the Swiss Alps is opened, by changing from Eurostar to TGV at Lisle. The service is not successful.
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"We" seem to be ploughing ahead with HS2 though rolling eyes

Faster trips ( in empty trains) to the slopes of Brum?
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Yoda wrote:
"We" seem to be ploughing ahead with HS2 though rolling eyes

Faster trips ( in empty trains) to the slopes of Brum?


The current projected cost of HS2 equates to 514 million return flights London to Geneva or £1,087 per person in the UK. Personally, I'd rather have the £1,087 in my pocket, or spent on building some affordable homes for young couples.
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Oleski wrote:
may be they need to buy the slots and arrange rolling stock/crew now


Sounds more real, a logistics decision.
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I got the email too. I’ve used it twice for overnight one way return trips from Moutiers.
Jan 2019..old style carriages, very comfy squashy seat, head and armrest, good leg room. Managed to get a pretty good night’s sleep. Thought to myself..this is good, I’ll definitely do it again...
Jan 2020..new style carriages, rock hard leather seat and armrest, and LED lights down the carriage that practically burned the back of my eyeballs and were not dimmed at all. Sleep..virtually nil. Thought to myself...not sure if the discomfort is worth it.

Then after storm Ciara (remember the good old days of the “major” inconvenience of flight cancellations cos of bad weather?...how I miss them..)..Mr P and I got train back to the U.K. using the following route, which was actually quite successful. 6.45am Moutiers to Lyon, 1 hr wait, then Lyon to Lille on TGV, one hour wait, then Eurostar Lille to London. No mad dash across Paris to worry about and a simple change of platforms at Lille. I would actually do that again. We were luggage and ski free though...so probably not a family option. Insurance paid up for the tickets too.
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@Perty, I agree, those new Eurostar seats are really uncomfortable, the older ones may have been a bit tired but they were much more comfy. I think the new ones meant they squeezed a few more seats in rolling eyes

Can you remember how long your Moutiers-Lyon-Lille-London route took?
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I am assuming the London to Paris then Paris to Bourg route is a change of stations in Paris?
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@thefatcontroller, yes you have to get from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon. Various options, can usually be done inside an hour.

On the return you need to allow two hours to allow for the transfer and the queues for passport control.
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@andy1234, just checked the booking from early Feb. Left Moutiers 6.47am, arrived Lyon 9.52am (a rather slow and grubby train). Left Lyon 11am on TGV - arrived Lille 14.31. Left Lille on Eurostar ...15.30..though it was a bit late, and arrived St P, 4.05pm.
We are lucky as we can get a direct train from St Pancras down to Crawley which is 10 mins taxi from home.

It was a bit of a mission and because of the storm, we ended up having to buy first class tickets on the TGV and Eurostar, but it saved my bacon as I had to be at work the next day to start a 3 week trial, and I got work on the train.
We literally woke up at 5am, read messages that flights cancelled, panicked a bit,but within 30 mins were booked on the train and heading down the mountain. Left the car outside the station as it appeared to have free parking (it wasn’t really).
Cost was €350, met by insurance. Not sure what it would be standard class.
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@thefatcontroller, see https://www.seat61.com/Paris-metro.htm
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@Perty, I have always wondered about that route. Do I understand correctly that there is no advance booking for the Moutiers - Lyon train? Do you just turn up at the ticket office?
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@Oleski, nope...we booked it all online using Oui SNCF. The website was a bit rubbish as I recall, but after going round in circles a bit (5am panic mode didn’t help) it worked fine.
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@Oleski, its a standard ordinary local train. you can pre-buy tickets; but they are for a service not a train, so same as any commuter travel in the UK

We've done:
Ski train, day and night;
the couchettes from Gare D'Austerlitz (they were the best - even did the non couchettes from Austerlitz once. spoiler: don't.);
Lon - Paris, Paris to Bourg;
Paris to Lyon, to Bourg;
Paris to Chambery to Bourg;
Bourg to Lyon to Lille to Lon;
This year thanks to various problems, did bus from Bourg to Moutiers, Train to Lyon, Lyon to Paris, RER to Chatelet, then walked to Gare du Nord, SNCF to Lille, E-star to Lon. Arrived 15 mins later than we 'should' have done had everything gone as planned.

Sometimes we go Friday evening, enjoy a night out in Paris and catch a 7am or 8 am train Saturday morning. Most times recently it's the early train from London on the Saturday.

TL:DR there are many, many routes!


Was hoping to go direct this year if only to avoid interactions in Paris: but guess it will be back to the usual Lon- Paris, and then see what is cheapest, best timings to get us to the south.

Snowcarbon is setting up a petition #SavetheSkiTrain - but if as above, social distancing is going to be an issue, not sure how much traction Daniel is going to get.
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Rob.Rar wrote:
I've not been on public transport since before lockdown. Is every service cutting capacity to provide space for social distancing? Planes, trains, buses?


Our local buses have reduced seating capacity. On one yesterday only 10 seats were available out of a total of 32 (un-available seats were signed and taped off) and there was no standing. Also face masks had to be worn, payment was only by card, no talking to the driver and no eating or drinking was allowed
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@Perty, @Arctic Roll, thanks
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Thanks Davina Goldballs for the Eurostar timeline.

When Eurostar launched, with much fanfare, it's Swiss Alps service, it lasted a year before it canned it. On paper, the service should have been great. Eurostar to Lille, switch platform and TGV Lyria to Geneva, then local train (or trains) to your Swiss ski resort - many of which have a station in them. Here's what I believe went wrong:

1. Eurostar seemingly consulted precisely nobody outside Eurostar's Head Office before the launch. Switzerland Tourism were at the time totally bemused.
2. The arrival time of the TGV in Geneva had a scheduled arrival too late to get to just about any connecting Swiss train, except to Aigle station (for Diablarets).
3. The returning train (i.e the folllowing Saturday) departed too early to catch any connecting train from a Swiss resort.
4. Had Eurostar teamed up with tour operators or transfer companies to offer transfer services to/from Swiss resorts? Er, nope.
5. I don't know whether Eurostar realised that though Switzerland has some of the finest resorts in the Alps, Switzerland only accounts for a 5% share of the UK ski market (France is 32%, Austria about 25%). So they were playing with a very small slice of cake anyway.

Same same but different mistakes with their London - Lyon winter service, launched a few years ago, and then canned. You could buy the Eurostar ticket, but not the local train connections. Tour operators not consulted, not encouraged to offer it. Eurostar didn't hadn't a clue about which ski resorts the service served. No consultation.

It's beyond schoolboy errors, and you'd laugh if you weren't to busy crying over the waste of multibillion £€€£ rail infrastructure.

Now, with a quality product like the Ski Train, they cancel it citing worries about 'demand'. Nonsense. They barely work with any ski tour operators, because almost every tour operator that knocks on their door gets ignored. You couldn't make it up.
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Daniel Snowcarbon wrote:
Thanks Davina Goldballs for the Eurostar timeline.


You're very welcome, Mr Snowcarbon.

Although I knew a couple of the dates, it took a couple of Googles. Eurostar's own history - https://www.eurostar.com/uk-en/about-eurostar/our-company/our-history - has nothing on ski trains, and nothing after 2015. Incredibly, therefore, the highly significant Amsterdam route gets no mention.
Railway Technology has an alternative history, focused on construction and line development: https://www.railway-technology.com/features/eurostar-25-years/
So we turn to The Guardian (back in 2014) for something more useful: https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/nov/14/eurostar-at-20-how-has-the-service-grown

Daniel Snowcarbon wrote:

When Eurostar launched, with much fanfare, it's Swiss Alps service, it lasted a year before it canned it. On paper, the service should have been great. Eurostar to Lille, switch platform and TGV Lyria to Geneva, then local train (or trains) to your Swiss ski resort - many of which have a station in them. Here's what I believe went wrong:

1. Eurostar seemingly consulted precisely nobody outside Eurostar's Head Office before the launch. Switzerland Tourism were at the time totally bemused.
2. The arrival time of the TGV in Geneva had a scheduled arrival too late to get to just about any connecting Swiss train, except to Aigle station (for Diablarets).
3. The returning train (i.e the folllowing Saturday) departed too early to catch any connecting train from a Swiss resort.
4. Had Eurostar teamed up with tour operators or transfer companies to offer transfer services to/from Swiss resorts? Er, nope.
5. I don't know whether Eurostar realised that though Switzerland has some of the finest resorts in the Alps, Switzerland only accounts for a 5% share of the UK ski market (France is 32%, Austria about 25%). So they were playing with a very small slice of cake anyway.


I'm slightly surprised at what you say, there, as I did use the Swiss service in its 1st year (I think it struggled on to a 2nd). Don't recall any particular problem getting to/from Zermatt, though there was a lengthy time at Lisle for the connection coming back.

I'd ask ...
1. Are you certain about that? It would suggest a total failure of their marketing. I was well aware of the service - and it being quite widely publicised in the press - which from memory ran straight through to Visp (for Zermatt etc.) and bought 2 tickets. Maybe skiers - if they want these services to run - need to buy tickets!
2+3. I've a feeling the service changed in the 2nd year, which may explain your comment.
4. Takes two to tango. Have UK tour operators ever embraced Eurostar, or is their commitment to polluting the atmosphere with aircraft exhaust gases? Has any UK tour operator based a business model on 'no packaging with flights' ?
5. Again ... it takes skiers to make up their minds what they really want, and what level of snow preservation they want for their children and grandchildren. The ski industry collectively, globally, needs to wake up to the immense environmental damage it's doing. Politicians need to act, now. Look at the state of the Alpine glaciers.

Daniel Snowcarbon wrote:
Same same but different mistakes with their London - Lyon winter service, launched a few years ago, and then canned. You could buy the Eurostar ticket, but not the local train connections. Tour operators not consulted, not encouraged to offer it. Eurostar didn't hadn't a clue about which ski resorts the service served. No consultation.


Again ... one would ask, given that that service had good publicity ... what did skiers do to buy tickets, and package their holidays independently?

Here's a question:
Is it possible to charter a Eurostar train to the Alps (France or Switzerland)? If so, what's the cost?

---------------------------------------------------
Improved timeline ...

1988: Construction of the Channel Tunnel begins
1994: The tunnel opens, and Eurostar starts operations. I successfully swung a ticket on the inaugural 'press' train from Waterloo by explaining I'd like to be the first to carry a pair of skis through the tunnel (somewhat off-season, involving a return trip to Paris!). Reported that for 'Ski Survey' magazine that autumn.
Mar 1997. Eurostar test the route from London Waterloo to Bourg St Maurice. Jeremy Atiyah reports for The Independent:
https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/london-to-madrid-in-seven-hours-by-train-1274428.html
Dec 1997. The Eurostar 'Ski Train' to Bourg St Maurice begins.
Dec 2003. A posting (by 'u brain') appears on the SCGB's chat forum, promoting what may have been (effectively) the first (pre sH) 'bash', via Eurostar:
http://www2.skiclub.co.uk/skiclub/forum/discussion.aspx/Skiing-And-Snowboarding-general?discussionID=4603&fbclid=IwAR0g843zJzvnDoJPPf0aeX4juKOcjhKYE9g6XTAEbHZsQdFX9H5mV511tL0
Nov 2007. Eurostar's London terminus switches to St Pancras International, with the opening of the 'HS1' track to the tunnel.
Dec 2012. A connection from London/Ashford to the Swiss Alps is opened, by changing from Eurostar to TGV at Lisle. The service is not successful.[/quote]

Missing from the above is the commencement of the overnight ski service to Bourg. And the Lyon service.

Cheers for now.
David G
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Good move from Eurostar.

Hedging their bets.

A 2nd wave of killer plague in winter 2021, more lockdowns and economic collapse will mean nobody wants to jump in a crowded tube of death for 12hrs.

Bookings are gonna be right down.
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Whitegold wrote:
Good move from Eurostar.
Hedging their bets.
A 2nd wave of killer plague in winter 2021, more lockdowns and economic collapse will mean nobody wants to jump in a crowded tube of death for 12hrs.
Bookings are gonna be right down.

You're a real bundle of joy aren't you. Deaths per day in Switzerland = 1. Deaths per day in France = 12. Have you considered that it might
actually be okay?

Regardless, Snowheads who'd like to support the ski train can sign the petition here:
https://www.change.org/p/don-t-cancel-the-most-sustainable-route-from-the-uk-to-the-alps
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I was trying to establish, in the posting above, if anyone has contemplated chartering a Eurostar Ski Train?
And the cost of doing this.

It's an idea based on something that happened about 180 years ago: the foundation of the huge (in its heyday) Thomas Cook package travel business, which was originally based on getting numbers of people from A to B by block-booking tickets on the then revolutionary steam trains (including, I believe, trips to the 1851 Great Exhibition in London's Hyde Park).

With all due respect ... Online petitions are 'a dime a dozen'. They do not equate to someone walking into London St Pancras with a wheeled suitcase stuffed with £50 notes. Who's willing to get people to commit to travelling on a chartered Eurostar, and collecting the skiers' dollars to get it to somewhere in the Alps?

CNN Travel [includes dramatic 2019 news video, and historical timeline]:
"Thomas Cook: A history of one of the world's oldest travel firms"

https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/thomas-cook-history-timeline/index.html#:~:text=Launched%20by%20cabinet%2Dmaker%20Thomas,to%20the%20Thomas%20Cook%20website.

Not me!!
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Davina Goldballs wrote:
I was trying to establish, in the posting above, if anyone has contemplated chartering a Eurostar Ski Train?
And the cost of doing this.

It's an idea based on something that happened about 180 years ago: the foundation of the huge (in its heyday) Thomas Cook package travel business, which was originally based on getting numbers of people from A to B by block-booking tickets on the then revolutionary steam trains (including, I believe, trips to the 1851 Great Exhibition in London's Hyde Park).



Indeed, the idea of privately chartering a train is nothing new - I seem to recall that when Sherlock Holmes started his train journey from London Victoria to the Continent in "The Final Problem" his arch enemy Moriarty 'engaged a special' to chase after Holmes. Madeye-Smiley
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@Daniel Snowcarbon, Lyria are not particularly popular in Switzerland, they have dropped most (if not all) of the regional and seasonal trains and now seem to only want to offer direct trains from Paris to Geneva and Basle see https://www.hiddeneurope.co.uk/lyria-ruffles-swiss-feathers
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