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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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No special agreements for open access operators

There is no obligation under Section 30 of the Railways Act for the Department for Transport to run open access services, Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said on October 2.

In a Commons Written Reply to Shadow Rail Minister Tan Dhesi, regarding any assessment of the impact on open access operators by the decision to move away from franchising (RAIL 915), Heaton-Harris highlighted that non-franchised operators run trains without a contractual relationship with Government.

For this reason, he said, they did not qualify for the Emergency Measures Agreements (EMAs) introduced in late March, or the Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements (ERMAs) that replaced them in September (RAIL 915).

He told Dhesi that they could use the furlough scheme, while DfT provided more bespoke measures such as applications for extensions to track access contracts and deferrals of payments to the British Transport Police.

Heaton-Harris said that the independent regulatory system overseen by the Office of Rail and Road ensures fair treatment of all companies providing rail services, including open access operators.

  • For the FULL story, read RAIL 916, published on October 21, and available digitally from October 17.
  • For the latest on the ERMAs, read RAIL 915, out now.

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