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As lockdown restrictions ease and we start to consider travelling again, the future of cross-Channel operator Eurostar remains uncertain.
Eurostar is seeking financial support from the UK Government, citing higher access charges here as a reason.
The French Government has pledged to provide support for the operator, while £200 million has been provided by one of its shareholders, Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec (CDPQ) and Hermes Infrastructure.
Registered in the UK and supporting 3,000 jobs either with the business or in the supply chain, the company is, however, 55% owned by SNCF (French state rail), 40% by CDPQ/Hermes and 5% by SNCB (Belgian state railways).
So: Should the UK Government provide financial assistance to Eurostar?

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Eurostar: dissent grows over lack of government support

Pressure is growing on the UK Government to help Eurostar, which remains without financial support from this country.

The operator is currently running one train a day from St Pancras International to Amsterdam (and a return), and one to Paris Gare Du Nord. All other routes are suspended, while St Pancras is the only UK station it currently serves.

Additionally, passenger numbers have dropped by as much as 99% since the beginning of the pandemic.

House of Commons Transport Select Committee Chairman Huw Merriman used his appearance at RAIL’s National Rail Recovery Conference on February 25 to question the lack of Government support for the operator.

“I think we should look at it as a strategic asset. I understand that it is majority French-owned, but then so are some of the train operating companies we have given support to,” he said.

“If my favourite team Arsenal can tap into support when they are American-owned, then Eurostar can also tap in on a loan perspective to the Bank of England.

“These are peculiar rules and we should work with the French to see what we can do.”

In a House of Lords debate on the Channel Tunnel on February 24, Baroness Randerson (Liberal Democrat) asked: “Eurostar also goes through the tunnel and is in serious financial difficulty, yet the Secretary of State says that it is not his company to save.

“Well, neither are the domestic train operators that have received billions in government support. Does the Minister accept that although the Government may not have a legal obligation to Eurostar, they have a moral duty to the planet to ensure the survival of this environmentally friendly alternative to flying to Europe?”

Transport Minister Baroness Vere replied: “The Government continues to discuss Eurostar’s financial situation with the French Government. At the moment there are no proposals on the table.”

  • For the FULL story, read RAIL 926, published on March 10, and available digitally from March 6.

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  • Judson Simzer - 05/03/2021 00:58

    Eurostar is totally unnecessary. It was a poster child of the great European Union experiment but thankfully that is all over. The UK has enough beautiful and exciting places to travel to without filling the bank accounts of foreigners in foreign lands. The Channel Tunnel may well have had its day. When it comes to freight, why do we need foreign goods? Aside from the political failure of the EUs leading states, Germany and France, to keep controlling our sovereign nation, why don't we promote UK holidays and UK goods and services instead of foreign ones? People prattle on about the environment but every foreign purchase, every foreign holiday, is damaging to the environment through unnecessary travel or haulage.

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  • Lch - 06/03/2021 02:30

    It isn’t about a company from another country owning eurostar. The UK government won’t prop up a company directly owned by a foriegn government. To be honest why should we? The French government should prop it up, they own the shares in eurostar. Eurostar also doesn’t own any of the infrastructure so another operator could set up why Eurostar (might) fail.

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