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French give Eurostar new hope of survival

EUROSTAR is set to receive financial support from the French and British governments, according to French transport secretary Jean-Baptiste Djebbari.

Giving evidence to an Assemblée nationale committee, he revealed that he has been involved in talks with British transport secretary Grant Shapps for several weeks, and that they had discussed ‘mechanisms for aid, proportional to everyone’s involvement in Eurostar’.

M. Djebbari also reassured the committee that the state would ‘be there at Eurostar’s side to maintain this strategic link between our two countries’.

The international operator is owned by the French and Belgian railways plus two international investment houses, which bought Britain’s 40 per cent stake in Eurostar’s parent company in 2015. The nationalised French railway SNCF has the largest share, with 55 per cent.

Although increasingly handicapped by international Covid travel restrictions, Eurostar has continued to run some services but these have dwindled to just a couple a day, and the firm now appears to be on the brink of collapse unless national governments come to the rescue. 

Chief executive Jacques Damas warned Agence France-Presse earlier this week that ‘catastrophe is possible’, while Eurostar told the Guardian that the situation ‘continues to remain critical for us and the need for support is there’.

Speaking to the Commons Transport Committee on Wednesday, French academic Professor Yves Crozet had said he supposed ‘the French Government will support Eurostar, but not alone. We will have probably an arm wrestling between the UK and France about that. But clearly Eurostar is a subsidiary of SNCF and SNCF has the majority of the capital. So clearly the money will come from France in a very important part but maybe France will ask UK to give also some hand to the system.’

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