A £250m rescue package has been secured by cross-Channel rail operator Eurostar after coming to an agreement with shareholders and lenders.
The agreed refinancing package predominantly consists of additional equity and loans from a syndicate of banks, guaranteed by the shareholders.
Partners include the French state railway group SNCF and majority shareholder Patina Rail, a vehicle backed by Canadian institutional investor Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ).
The UK sold its stake in Eurostar to private companies in 2015 for £757m. Despite pressure to be contribute to the rescue package, the UK Government has remained uninvolved.
Back in November 2020, Eurostar reported seeing a 95% reduction in passenger numbers during the pandemic, which has left it “fighting for its survival”.
Jacques Damas, Chief Executive of Eurostar, was quoted as saying: “Everyone at Eurostar is encouraged by this strong show of support from our shareholders and banks which will allow us to continue to provide this important service for passengers.
“The refinancing agreement is the key factor enabling us to increase our services as the situation with the pandemic starts to improve.
“Eurostar will continue to work closely with governments to move towards a safe easing of travel restrictions and streamlining of border processes to allow passengers to travel safely and seamlessly.
“Their co-ordinated actions and decisions are crucial to the restoring of demand and the financial recovery of our business.
“Over the last year, this international business dedicated to routes connecting the UK with the continent, has experienced a more severe decline in demand resulting from the global Covid-19 pandemic than any other European train operator or competitor airline.
“With this package of support, Eurostar will be able to continue to operate this vital link and meet its financial obligations in the short to mid-term.”
As passengers begin to return following the pandemic, Eurostar is set to increase the number of trains running on its London-Paris route to two daily return services from May 27, 2021 and three per day by the end of June.
Looking to rebuild demand for travel on core routes between London and Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, Eurostar is aiming to gradually increase the frequency of services over the summer period.
These will also depend on ongoing UK and European travel restrictions.