Eurostar is set to receive aid from France and the UK to safeguard its future in a post-pandemic world, according to the French government.
The open-access operator has said its future is at risk and appealed for state help, with passenger numbers depleting by 95% on pre-pandemic levels.
It now runs just one train a day each way on its London-Paris and London-Brussels routes.
The French Transport Minister, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, told an Assemblée Nationale committee on Thursday (21 Jan) that the state would, “be there at Eurostar’s side to maintain this strategic link between our two countries.”
Djebbari further stated that the government was working with the UK on, “mechanisms for aid, proportional to everyone’s involvement in Eurostar,” to keep the business going.
He said he had been in discussion for several weeks with the British Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps.
The French state-owned railway SNCF owns 55% of Eurostar, and Belgium 5%. Britain sold its 40% stake to private pension funds in 2015.
Eurostar headquarters are based in the UK and has claimed that Britain has come to the aid of all its railway operators, spending significant amounts of money to release train operators, including other foreign state-owned firms, from franchises as revenues have disappeared, but has left them in the dark.
It has also pointed out the aid in loans given to aviation, stating that rail provides the greenest international link to the UK.
With Eurostar’s shareholders having pumped an extra €200m into the business, it has only recently admitted its survival is in doubt. Chief Executive, Jacques Damas, told Agence France-Presse on Monday (18 Jan) that, “catastrophe is possible”.
The UK Department for Transport claims to have begun engaging extensively and regularly with Eurostar since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak and will continue to discuss Eurostar’s financial situation with the French government. Although, no agreement has yet been reached.
The Commons Transport Select Committee Chair, Huw Merriman, called on the UK and France to set out a joint commitment to backing Eurostar. He said: “We simply cannot afford to lose Eurostar to this pandemic.”