Eurostar crisis: European officials beg UK for support as train operator faces collapse

Eurostar ‘cannot be allowed to collapse’ says Irish MEP

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Chiefs begged Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to help bail out the international train operator. It comes the Express understands the operator could become wholly European owned.

The carrier, which runs services between London St Pancras and Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, carried 11 million passengers in 2019.

But 95 percent of services were axed as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and is on the verge of bankruptcy.

One train a day is currently running on each of its routes for essential workers.

A Eurostar spokesman today called for similar COVID-19 support that is given to British airlines consisting of tax relief of up to £8m of business rates.

They added: “We only ask that they provide us with the same aid that is being offered to the airlines.

“We once again call for this kind of support to be extended to international high-speed rail that has been severely affected by the pandemic.

“Without additional funding from the British Government, there is a real risk for the survival of Eurostar, the green door to Europe, as the current situation is very serious.”

CEO and Eurostar chief Jacques Damas added a “catastrophe is possible” without funding from Whitehall.

It comes as state-owned SNCF, which owns 55 percent of Eurostar, faces losses of up to £4.2 billion due to tight travel restrictions in France.

Transport industry sources close to Eurostar today told the Express the situation was getting “very serious.”

One said: “Eurostar is a jewel in the crown for Britain, it provides a key link to Europe.

“If UK ministers refuse to budge we could be in a position where France and Belgium have to take full control.

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“The situation is very crucial right now, bankruptcy is on the horizon.”

Sources indicated if funding didn’t come soon then a French and Belgium consortium which could include the French and Belgian Governments may be forced to take full control of Eurostar.

But this move, Express.co.uk understands, may not save Eurostar from a period of closure.

Manuel Cortes, chief executive of the Transport and Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) has been hosting talks with rail chiefs on funding solutions.

Mr Cortes, added: “Ministers must do everything possible and work with us on this urgent task to safeguard the green door to Europe.

“Eurostar is still in dire straits, but it is too important to drop.”

Whitehall officials said “insightful discussions” were currently taking place with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps alongside French counterparts.

One official told this publication: “Discussions are insightful and productive.”

It comes after the UK government sold its 40 percent stake in the cross-Channel train operator Eurostar to an Anglo-Canadian consortium for £757.1m in 2015.

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