Thursday 21 January 2021 9:42 am

French government ready to help prop up Eurostar

The French government is ready to help prop up the Eurostar, a transport minister confirmed today, and is in talks with the UK over how to do so.

This morning Jean-Baptiste Djebbari told French lawmakers that negotiations were underway over protecting the cross-channel rail link, which has seen its finances decimated by the pandemic.

His comments come after a week in which MPs and businesses alike have lobbied ministers to step in to help the service.

As a result of the pandemic, passenger numbers have dropped about 95 per cent since last March, with just two services currently being run a day.

Although the UK sold its stake in the Eurostar in 2015, ministers have been urged to protect it due to its oversized importance for travel to the continent.

Four out of every five journeys from London to Paris or Brussels are made using the rail link, research from business group London First shows.

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Last night the chair of the transport select committee, Huw Merriman, said that the British and French governments should work together to keep the service afloat.

“We simply cannot afford to lose Eurostar to this pandemic. The company contributes £800 million each year to the UK economy”, he said.

 “It needs a joint, bespoke UK-French solution to help it through this crisis.”

Merriman’s comments followed predictions from a French economist that wrangling over the Eurostar’s future would lead to an “arm-wrestle” between the respective governments.

Unlike the UK’s railways, which have received almost £10bn in taxpayer support, or airlines such as Air France, the Eurostar has yet to receive any state-backed aid.