Eurostar owners to privatise group

OWNERS of Eurostar are moving to set up the high-speed train service as a standalone company after years of negotiations.

The British government, along with French and Belgian state owned rail companies, are announcing today that they will relinquish ownership of the rail company and instead create a new company, which will be incorporated in the UK.

French rail company SNCF will have a majority stake in the newly created entity.

Currently SNCF runs 62.5 per cent of Eurostar, while the UK runs 32.5 per cent and Belgian rail group SNCB runs five per cent.

The news comes as Eurostar’s sales during the first three months of the year have seen a five per cent increase, bringing turnover to £178m.

Quarterly information released by the train group today shows that the number of passengers travelling on Eurostar during the first quarter of the year climbed to 2m compared with the same period last year when it transported 1.9m passengers.

Earlier this year, Eurostar was heavily criticised in a report on the chaos caused during December when snow halted the service of six trains, leaving 2,500 passengers stranded in the Channel Tunnel.

The report was drawn up by former GNER East Coast Main Line rail chief Christopher Garnett and French transport expert Claude Gressier and commissioned by Eurostar.