Government ‘keen for Eurostar to survive but will not take lead in rescue’

Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent
·1-min read

The UK will not take the lead in rescuing Eurostar as it is majority-owned by France, a Cabinet minister has said.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs that the Government is “very keen for Eurostar to survive” but insisted “it’s not our company”.

The cross-Channel rail operator revealed in November that it is “fighting for its survival” after suffering a 95% reduction in passenger numbers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Eurostar trains are being stored at an engineering centre in east London (PA/Jonathan Brady)
Eurostar trains are being stored at an engineering centre in east London (Jonathan Brady/PA)

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

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

Giving evidence to the Commons Transport Select Committee, Mr Shapps said the UK will be “as helpful as possible”, stating that schemes such as UK Export Finance – which partially guarantees loans – could be utilised.

But he continued: “We don’t own the shares, so, to state the obvious, it is the shareholders’ problem to resolve.

“We’ll be as helpful as possible but it’s not for us to take over their issue.

“You’ve got 55% ownership by the French state. It’s not just any old shareholder.”

Mr Shapps added: “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.”

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

Last month, France’s junior transport minister, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, told a parliamentary hearing in Paris that the level of support given to Eurostar by France will be “based on our involvement”.