France has said it is ready to give financial support to struggling Eurostar.
Junior transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari told a parliamentary hearing in Paris that he is in talks with the UK Government about ensuring the cross-Channel train operator survives the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The French state will be “at Eurostar’s side in order to maintain this strategic link between our two countries”, he said.
He added that support will be given “based on our involvement in Eurostar, so that we can financially sustain its business model”.
Earlier this week, the chairman of the Transport Select Committee suggested that the UK and French governments make a joint commitment to support Eurostar during the pandemic.
Eurostar is 55% owned by French state rail company SNCF, while the UK government sold its stake to private firms for £757 million back in 2015.
How hard has Eurostar been hit by COVID-19?
Eurostar has been with a 95% drop in passenger numbers. The firm is running just one daily train in each direction between London and Paris, and between London and Amsterdam via Brussels.
That is a stark change from before the pandemic, when Eurostar were operating more than 50 daily services.
SNCF chief executive Jean-Pierre Farandou told France Inter radio this week that “the situation is very critical for Eurostar”.
Conservative Party MP Huw Merriman said the cross-Channel train operator plays a vital role in enabling low-carbon international travel.
Mr Merriman said: “We simply cannot afford to lose Eurostar to this pandemic. The company contributes £800 million each year to the UK economy. It is unique in offering an environmentally friendly, direct, connection to mainland Europe.
“Trips from London to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam on the Eurostar emit between 80-90% less greenhouse gas emissions per passenger than the equivalent short-haul flights.
“Like airlines, quarantine and travel restrictions have blighted Eurostar’s access to its markets during the pandemic. Unlike airlines, Eurostar has been shut out from government loans that have offered a lifeline.”
He added: “It needs a joint, bespoke UK-French solution to help it through this crisis.”
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