Eurostar on brink of collapse: French-owned rail service BEGS for UK help after Paris snub
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The cross-Channel train service, which is majority-owned by the French state, came begging to Britain after exhausting its options with Paris. The company said a 95 percent slump in passenger numbers during the pandemic has brought the service to its knees. It said: “Without additional funding from the Government, there is a real risk to the survival of Eurostar… the current situation is very serious.”
Eurostar was supported by a group of London business leaders who wrote to the Government pleading for financial aid for the cross-Channel transport link.
Bosses from firms such as luxury food seller Fortnum & Mason and London landlord Shaftesbury called for “swift action to safeguard its future”.
In a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, they said Eurostar could soon run out of funds to run its service in and out of London’s St Pancras station.
The 28 executives wrote: “Safeguarding the future of this connection to the Continent should be a symbol of both our desire to build back better and our new cooperative relationship with our European neighbours.
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“If this viable business is allowed to fall between the cracks of support – our recovery could be damaged.”
In 2019, Eurostar carried 11 million passengers and announced plans to expand its services with the introduction of direct trains to Amsterdam.
But now it runs just two services a day from London to Paris and Brussels because of the significant reduction in demand from passengers.
Eurostar is 55 percent owned by the French state rail firm SNCF, while the Belgium government has a five percent stake.
The Government sold its stake in the business to private companies for £757 million in 2015.
The 40 percent stake was sold before the general election in 2015 by the UK in order to pay off its debts.
Shareholders have already pumped in around £178 million to keep Eurostar running during the crisis.
But the company has warned the money was “finite”, adding: “The current situation is very serious.
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“We are encouraged by the Government-backed loans that have been awarded to airlines and would once again ask that this kind of support be extended to international high-speed rail.”
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “We recognise the significant financial challenges facing Eurostar as a result of Covid-19 and the unprecedented circumstances currently faced by the international travel industry.
“The Government has been engaging extensively with Eurostar on a regular basis since the start of the outbreak.
“We will continue to work closely with them as we support the safe restart and recovery of international travel.”
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Christophe Fanichet, head of SNCF Voyageurs, last week warned Eurostar was in a “very critical” situation.
He said the issue was the company was seen in the UK as a French business not support by the Government.
But he also claimed in France the firm is seen as a UK-based businesses not aided by Paris.
New travel restrictions are expected to heap even more pressure on the service, with airlines and airports also calling for more support.
From today, new rules require all travellers to Britain to have tested negative for Covid and to quarantine for 10 days.
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