The first-ever biometric corridor for train travel opened today at Eurostar’s London terminal.
The system, developed by British tech firm iProov, replaces border checks with a facial verification checkpoint that you just walk straight past.
Before travel, the passenger downloads the app, authenticates their ID, scans their face, and links their ticket. On arrival at St Pancras Station, they stroll through a dedicated lane for the tech — dubbed SmartCheck — which verifies their entry.
The system lets users skip ticket gates and manual border control in the UK. After baggage inspection and a passport check at the French border, they’re free to board the train.
With no fiddly paper documents, prying British sentries, or protracted camera scans, SmartCheck promises shorter queues and smoother throughput. Initially, the system will only be available for Eurostar’s Business Premier and Carte Blanche passengers. But the company aims to extend the service to all customers and — perhaps — more borders.
The CEO of Eurostar, Gwendoline Cazenave, told TNW that she plans to provide a launchpad for the tech.
“We wanted to show that seamless, automated cross-borders are not just science fiction — they’re now a reality,” she said.
SmartCheck is years in the making. In 2020, the UK’s Department for Transport awarded iProov part of a £9.4m fund for innovative rail projects, which was used to develop the biometric system. The next year, live trials of the contactless service began at Eurostar.
“In the original trial we had people stopping — and people don’t like to stop,” said Dominic Forrest, CTO at iProov. “That’s when we decided to shoot for the free-flow experience.”
A day before the launch, TNW trialled the tech. Aside from some issues with mobile internet in the station, the experience was seamless.
After entering the biometric lane, we strolled straight past the facial verification checkpoint. From the other side, we could see the system uses a commercial iPad. The speed and accuracy, says Forrest, derive from the processing power and face-matching algorithms that run on the device.
Similar tech has been tested at airports, but this is the first deployment at a train station. According to iProov CEO Andrew Bud, rail travel presents extra challenges for biometric corridors.
“The controls are different, the throughput is different, and the way that information flows is very, very different,” he said.
The space is also different. At peak levels, around 11 million annual Eurostar customers pass through an area the size of three tennis courts — which means efficient checks are vital.