Plea for Eurostar cash lifeline to keep cross-Channel train service on track

The British and French governments must give support to the struggling Eurostar after a dramatic drop in passengers during the pandemic warned by a top politician.

Transport Select Committee chair Huw Merriman said the cross-channel train operator plays an important role in enabling low-carbon international travel but has been affected by a 95 percent reduction in passenger numbers.

There is only one train a day in each direction between London and Paris and London and Amsterdam via Brussels.

The company, which operated more than 50 daily services prior to the pandemic, has claimed it is “struggling to survive.”

Eurostar is 55 percent owned by French state railways SNCF, while the UK government sold its stake to private companies for £ 757m in 2015.

Tory MP Merriman said: “We just cannot afford to lose Eurostar to this pandemic. The company contributes £ 800 million to the UK economy every year.

“It is unique in offering an environmentally friendly, direct connection to mainland Europe. Traveling with the Eurostar from London to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam cause between 80 and 90 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions per passenger than the corresponding short-haul flights.

“As with airlines, quarantine and travel restrictions have affected Eurostar’s access to its markets during the pandemic. Unlike airlines, Eurostar has been banned from government loans, which provide a lifeline. A joint, bespoke British-French solution is needed to face this crisis. “

Mr Merriman’s comments came after business leaders in London urged the government to offer financial assistance to Eurostar.

A French transportation economist told the Transport Select Committee on Wednesday that he believes the UK is being asked to help the operator’s survival.

Professor Yves Crozet from the University of Lyon said: “I assume that the French government will support Eurostar, but not alone.

“But Eurostar is clearly a subsidiary of SNCF and SNCF has the majority of the capital. So it is clear that a very important part of the money will come from France, but maybe France will ask the UK to lend a hand on the system too. ”

The CEO of the SNCF, Jean-Pierre Farandou, told France Inter Radio this week that “the situation for Eurostar is very critical”.

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