Eurostar: Passengers join large queue for trains ahead of closure
Eurostar carried 11 million passengers and announced plans to expand its services with the introduction of direct trains to Amsterdam in 2019. However, it has since been forced to axe 95 percent of its services due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year and now runs just two services a day from London to Paris and Brussels.
Tighter measures on travel introduced by Belgium and French authorities are expected to squeeze passenger numbers further with only EU citizens and permanent residents being allowed to travel from the UK side.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, however, said Eurostar wasn’t the UK’s company to bail out after calls by French authorities to help with funding.
He told the House of Commons Transport Select Committee: “It’s not primarily for us to do that because we don’t own the thing.
“The physical nature of the tunnel wouldn’t disappear, or the infrastructure.
We will use your email address only for sending you newsletters. Please see our Privacy Notice for details of your data protection rights.
“So there are well-established routes for these things and I can only repeat — it’s not our company to rescue.”
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.
Eurostar is also 55 percent owned by the French state rail firm SNCF, while the Belgium government has a five percent stake.
Mr Shapps pointed out: “You’ve got 55% ownership by the French state so it’s not just any old shareholder, it’s a state-backed shareholder.
“We will look to be as helpful as possible.”
Mr Shapps concluded: “The solution will be found.
“I don’t think there’s any world in which we cease to have that connection up and running in the future when indeed we’re all able to travel again.”
Eurostar chiefs had called for COVID-19 support similar to that given to airlines.
British replacement for ‘bloated and bureaucratic’ Erasmus unveiled [LATEST]
Alex Salmond warns ‘actions have consequences’ as former FM hits out [INSIGHT]
SNP threatens police checks on roads leading from England [REVEAL]
The funding consists of tax relief of up to £8m of business rates at each major airport in England.
Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, France’s Junior Transport Minister, told the Assemblée Nationale committee he had also asked the UK on “mechanisms for aid, proportional to everyone’s involvement in Eurostar,” to keep the business going.
But he made clear the level of support given to Eurostar by France will be “based on our involvement”.
Express.co.uk understands French ministers believe Eurostar may not survive into the summer with officials claiming the next 12-16 weeks would be crucial.
Eurostar: Trains cancelled as French transport workers strike
Whitehall sources told Express.co.uk “productive” discussions with French counterparts were continuing to find a solution.
One told this publication: “We certainly don’t want to see the iconic Eurostar collapse, we are working on a solution.”
At the same time, Channel Tunnel owner Getlink suffered nearly a 50 percent drop in freight traffic in January after the UK left the EU.
The companies monthly figures reveal a total of 131,746 trucks passed through the tunnel in December.
In January, the figure fell to just 82,484 people after new Brexit red tape was introduced for exporters and importers to the EU.
The company, which is owned by private French shareholders said numbers had suffered significantly due to businesses struggling to understand new complex export rules.
A spokesperson said the issue of bureaucracy will continue to hamper demand from hauliers.
They added: “We need to see an improvement in the readiness of traders.
“Preparing traders is the government’s talk to set up the paperwork systems of importers and exporters so that their goods can be exported transparently.
“Unless they are full, trucks are not allowed to enter Kent.”
Source: Read Full Article