The French state will support the cross-Channel company Eurostar, in great difficulty because of the health crisis, in conjunction with the British government, French Minister for Transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said on Thursday.
“The State will be present alongside Eurostar in order to maintain this strategic link between our two countries,” Djebbari said to the Commission for Sustainable Development of the French National Assembly.
“We are working in conjunction with the British on aid mechanisms proportionate to everyone’s involvement in Eurostar, so as to sustain the company’s economic model from a financial standpoint,” he added.
Djebbari has been discussing the issue for many weeks with his British counterpart Grant Shapps. The French State aid will most certainly pass through SNCF, which is a 55% shareholder in Eurostar.
Besides SNCF, Eurostar is 40% owned by the Patina Rail consortium – 30% made up of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and 10% by the British fund Hermes Infrastructure – and 5% by the Belgian Rail company SNCB/NMBS.
Severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, Eurostar has warned that it could find itself in default of payment at the end of the spring if the British and French governments did not come to its rescue.
Due to the coronavirus crisis, Eurostar runs only one train per day (instead of twelve) between London and Paris and another one between London, Brussels and Amsterdam. The number of passengers has dropped by 85% in 2020.
Eurostar is asking for access to the same secured loans as airlines and would like to benefit from a temporary reduction on the tolls paid to run its trains. The company also hopes for coordination of health constraints between the four countries served, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.