THE fate of Eurostar could depend on the willingness of the existing shareholders to surrender a stake in the owning company to the British government.
Britain sold its 40 per cent share in Eurostar to two international investment houses in 2015, while the majority stake of 55 per cent has remained with French railways, The other 5 per cent is owned by Belgian railways.
But there have been discussions between British and French transport ministers over Britain paying a share of the bailout which Eurostar needs to stay in business.
Its timetables have been slashed from around 50 trains a day to just a couple of services as a result of travel restrictions during the pandemic. These have now led to a ban on international travel, except for a few legally-permitted reasons.
French transport secretary Jean-Baptiste Djebbari told an Assemblée nationale committee at the end of last week that he had been involved in talks with British transport secretary Grant Shapps for several weeks, and that they had discussed ‘mechanisms for aid, proportional to everyone’s involvement in Eurostar’.
Meanwhile Eurostar chief executive Jacques Damas has warned Agence France-Presse that ‘catastrophe is possible’.
According to The Times, ‘British ministers want some form of return on investment for any support’. This could take the form of a British share of the equity in Eurostar, although loans and credit guarantees are also believed to have been discussed.