The cross-Channel train operator, which provides services between London St Pancras and Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, carried 11 million passengers in 2019. But Eurostar had to contend with a 95% drop in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic and now operates a single one-day train between London and Paris and Amsterdam / Brussels.
Business leaders have held meetings with UK ministers over a possible state-backed bailout as the cash-strapped rail operator faces an uncertain financial future.
While UK ministers initially appeared to reject Eurostar bailout requests and urged them to seek help from the French government, this publication includes ministers may start looking the other way after their last meeting on April 12.
Express.co.uk also understands that the company recently struck a deal with lenders to refinance hundreds of millions of pounds of debt.
Railways Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said Eurostar had made a significant contribution to boosting the UK economy.
Recognizing the operator’s benefits for the first time in response to a written parliamentary question from Slough MP Tanmanjeet Dhesi, Mr Heaton-Harris, added: âThe government continues to hold regular discussions on Eurostar’s financial situation with the French government, both at ministerial and official levels.
âBoth governments recognize that Eurostar’s services bring significant economic benefits to the UK and France and we will continue to work with the company as we work to resume international travel where it is safe to do so.
“We will continue to work with Eurostar to understand what support or additional steps the company, its shareholders and lenders will take to support the company and meet its current financial challenges.”
The minister’s comments contrast slightly with the stance of Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who said Eurostar was not the UK company to bail out in February.
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But a company spokesperson stressed they had “no new details” on a UK government financial bailout.
They stressed that “conversations were still ongoing, adding that it was” too early to predict a recovery to pre-pandemic levels.
Sources in Whitehall said the Transport Department was “actively engaging” with Eurostar, but stressed that “no deal” had been reached.
Eurostar is majority owned (55%) by SNCF, a state-owned company, and faces losses of up to Â£ 4.2 billion due to strict travel restrictions in France.
The UK government is no longer involved in the cross-channel operator after the Treasury sold its 40% stake to an Anglo-Canadian consortium for Â£ 757.1million in 2015.