France pledges to give financial support to Eurostar

PA

France has said it is ready to give financial support to struggling Eurostar.

Junior transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari told a parliamentary hearing in Paris that he is in talks with the UK Government about ensuring the cross-Channel train operator survives the coronavirus pandemic.

The French state will be “at Eurostar’s side in order to maintain this strategic link between our two countries”, he said.

He added that support will be given “based on our involvement in Eurostar, so that we can financially sustain its business model”.

Eurostar is 55% owned by French state rail company SNCF.

The UK Government sold its stake to private companies for £757 million in 2015.

The operator has been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, with a 95% fall in passenger numbers.

It is running just one daily train in each direction between London and Paris, and between London and Amsterdam via Brussels.

The firm, which has a fleet of 27 trains, operated more than 50 daily services before the pandemic.

Some of its unused trains are being stored at its Temple Mills depot in east London.

Eurostar revealed in November it is “fighting for its survival”.

SNCF chief executive Jean-Pierre Farandou told France Inter radio this week that “the situation is very critical for Eurostar”.

On Wednesday, Commons Transport Select Committee chairman and Tory MP Huw Merriman urged the UK and French governments to make a joint commitment to support Eurostar.

He said “we simply cannot afford to lose Eurostar” as it is “unique in offering an environmentally friendly, direct connection to mainland Europe”.

His comments came after business leaders in London wrote to the Government calling on it to not let Eurostar “fall between the cracks of support”, citing the extra assistance given to the aviation sector during the pandemic.

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