The state-owned company made this proposal this Friday morning to the shareholders of Eurostar and Thalys. Objective: to create a European giant capable of competing with low-cost airlines.
A journey from London (England) – Cologne (Germany) in a single high-speed train or with optimised connections: within two years, SNCF wants to launch a European company born from the merger of Eurostar (which allows journeys between England and the European continent via the Channel tunnel) and Thalys (which operates high-speed train links between France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands).
An ambitious project whose first step was to propose this Friday morning this idea to the shareholders of both companies. SNCF owns 55% of Eurostar, the rest is shared between the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (30%), the Dutch public transport company Hermes (10%) and the Belgian railway company SNCB/NMBS (5%). It also has 60% of Thalys and SNCB/NMBS 40%.
By merging the two companies, SNCF aims to facilitate the journey by high-speed train in northern Europe. “Today, the two companies operate independently of each other, each with its ticket distribution system, its network, its loyalty programme,” says Rachel Picard, CEO of Voyages SNCF.
Tomorrow, if this new company is born, no need to book tickets via two different websites to go from Germany to England by high-speed train.
Today Eurostar carries 11 million passengers per year and Thalys 7.5 million. SNCF believes that their merger will increase traffic by about 50% from 18.5 million to 30 million passengers per year.
SNCF wants to keep control of the new company by retaining a majority in its capital. If neither its name nor the location of its headquarters was discussed, the project was named Greenspeed. Because with this future European railway company, the SNCF wants to surf on the “flygskam” movement, literally the “shame of taking the plane”.