Brussels (Brussels Morning) After experiencing a steep decline in the number of passengers due to the coronavirus crisis, the cross-channel train service Eurostar has called on the UK government for aid, claiming it is as much in need of help as airlines that have been grounded by the pandemic, RFI reported.
The French national railway (SNCF), which owns 55% of the Eurostar service, sounded the alarm about the company’s finances last week. SNCF executive Christophe Fanichet said the company was in a very critical state, following a collapse in travel between Britain and the European mainland.
Asking for support
Eurostar issued a statement on Monday, appealing for help and emphasizing the low-carbon emission nature of its transport services. “We are encouraged by the government-backed loans that have been awarded to airlines and would, once again, ask that this kind of support be extended to international high-speed rail which has been severely impacted by the pandemic,” the company said.
Eurostar International Limited (EIL), the company running the train service, is owned by SNCF, the Belgian national railway company (5%), and investment firms (40%), and is registered as a legal entity in London.
Close to collapse
The UK’s Transport Department acknowledged the “significant financial challenges facing Eurostar” and the unprecedented circumstances so detrimental to its core business that the international travel industry is currently experiencing. Without committing to financial assistance, the Department promised it would “continue to work closely with Eurostar to ensure the safe recovery of international travel.”
SNCF’s Fanichet noted last week that the railway’s numbers were down 85% in 2020, and that the group urgently needs extra cash to prevent collapse. He added that there is a problem of perception for the company, which is seen as French by the British government, and as British by the French, which means both governments are hesitant to provide aid.