Eurostar ‘cannot be allowed to collapse’, says Irish MEP
Eurostar has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic over the past year, with forced lockdowns that have generated revenue and a drop in passenger numbers. The rail company’s annual revenue fell from £ 1 billion (€ 1.1 billion) in 2019 to around £ 180 million (€ 208 million) in 2020, as passenger numbers plummeted by 95% compared to the 11 million people who traveled on its trains in 2019. already £ 400 million (450 million euros) and received a cash injection of 170 million pounds sterling (197 million euros). euros) from its owners.
Earlier this year, French Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari told a committee that the state “would be there alongside Eurostar to maintain this strategic link between our two countries”.
He said the French government was working with its British counterparts on “aid mechanisms, commensurate with everyone’s involvement in Eurostar”.
It comes despite the UK selling its stake in the rail company for more than £ 750million in what then-Chancellor George Osborne described as a ‘fantastic deal’.
Eurostar News: Rail company hit hard during pandemic
In response to our initial story, an Express.co.uk reader raged: “No, why should we help France? Did they go out of their way to help us in any way? The short answer is no, they didn’t.
“They have treated us as enemies and we return the favor by telling them that no money is coming from UK taxpayers to finance their businesses. “
A second person fumed: “Why would we want to help them when their European owners are doing all they can to make our lives difficult?
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Eurostar News: Passenger numbers plummeted during pandemic in 2020
Another reader commented: “The UK has no obligation to help, if it has to do what the French would have done, and put the boot in it. »
A fourth person added: “France cannot make itself understood that we are not in the EU now”.
Professor Iain Begg of the London School of Economics said the UK had “no obligation” to help, as it had not been a stakeholder since 2015.
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Eurostar News: Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said the French government was working with his UK on “aid mechanisms, proportional to everyone’s involvement in Eurostar”
Professor Begg told Express.co.uk: “There are two aspects to this – the first is whether there is an obligation or an interest in supporting Eurostar.
“There is no obligation in the sense that it is a company owned by the French and Belgian railways as well as by a hedge fund in Canada, but it may be in the interest of the Great Britain because the British find the service desirable.
“The next question is, if it is not saved, will something replace it or will there be some uncertainty?” Will there be a lack of connectivity between the UK and the mainland? “
“I think the danger is that there could be a lack of decision which would make things very difficult. “
Eurostar News: Professor Begg thinks Boris Johnson could consider buying a stake in the railway company
He said: “One question that could be asked is whether there is a funding mechanism whereby the UK taxpayer is protected.
“Or it could be a reversal of what David Cameron did in 2015, and take a new equity stake.
“It may be the reasonable long-term option for the British to renew their ownership of the business.
“I doubt regular bettors are being trained on this, but it’s something the government will take into consideration, almost certainly the math that will be done is whether shareholders should be expected to extend their support any longer.” “
Eurostar said there was no update on a possible financial bailout, but “conversations are still ongoing. “
A spokesperson added that it was “too early to predict a recovery to pre-pandemic levels – much would depend on the relaxation of international travel restrictions which have not yet been confirmed.”