Failing Eurostar pleads for UK government support

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Eurostar, © PA Archive/PA Images
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Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent

Eurostar has warned it is “fighting for its survival” as it called for more financial support from the UK government.

The cross-Channel rail operator claimed it is being treated unfairly after the aviation sector was given extra assistance due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, the government announced it will cover up to £8 million (€8.9 million) of business rates liabilities at each major English airport.

 

Eurostar said in a statement: “The new scheme of rates relief for airports puts Eurostar at a direct disadvantage against its airline competitors.

“Eurostar has been left fighting for its survival against a 95 per cent drop in demand, whilst aviation has received over £1.8 billion (€2 million) in support through loans, tax deferrals and financing.

“We would ask this scheme to be extended to include international rail services, and more generally for the government to incorporate high-speed rail in its support for the travel sector, and in doing so help protect the green gateway to Europe.”

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Eurostar has slashed its timetables due to the collapse in demand for foreign travel.

It is running just one train in each direction between London and Paris, and between London and Amsterdam via Brussels.

The firm operated more than 50 daily services before the pandemic.

Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT is calling on the government to step in immediately to give lifeline financial support for the important international infrastructure role fulfilled by Eurostar and the thousands of jobs supported both directly and indirectly by the service.

“‎It is wholly wrong that Eurostar, an eco-friendly service that is a beacon for the future of our railways, is being denied the kind of financial support being offered to the airports.

“The current inaction leaves the service hanging by a thread and all we are asking for is the support needed to maintain viability and stability as we move out of this phase of lockdown and look forward to the future.”

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