The government has resisted calls for a bailout for cross-Channel train operator Eurostar, despite the company teetering towards bankruptcy.
Eurostar has until June to repay £400m loans that it took out to bolster a collapse in revenue after passenger numbers plummeted during the pandemic.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak last year unveiled a scheme called Project Birch to help strategically important companies that “have exhausted all options”.
However, ministers are understood to be taking a tough line on the matter, with critics insisting the deadline to clear the debt can be extended.
“The tunnel and the rolling stock are there. Someone would take them on, even if the company went to the wall. There’s no appetite for bailing them out at all,” one source told the Financial Times.
The service is currently running just one service a day to both Paris and Amsterdam due to ongoing border controls.
Eurostar first pled for bailout funds from the UK government in January, when it said there had been a 95 per cent decline in passenger numbers since March last year.
The company is 60 per cent owned by French state rail firm SNCF. The UK government sold its 40 per cent stake in the business to private companies for £757.1m in 2015.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said last week that Eurostar “is not our company to rescue” but added: “We’re very, very keen for the Eurostar to survive, and we’ll wait to see the plan [from state rail firm SNCF]”.
Eurostar and the UK government have held talks over a possible state-backed commercial loan worth £60m for Eurostar, but the discussions are yet to bear fruition.
Last month SNCF chief Jean-Pierre Farandou told the FT the operator was in advanced discussions to secure aid from the UK and France.
“We are getting closer to the moment when Eurostar will have real cash flow problems… By next month, we have to conclude these discussions,” he said.