Eurostar: Passengers join large queue for trains ahead of closure
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The rail company’s future has been threatened after a sustained drop in passenger flows as the health crisis continues to hammer European travel. It is now offering just one return journey a day to its destinations – London, Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam – after a 95 percent drop in demand. Bosses have warned Eurostar is “fighting for its survival” and called for financial help from both the British and French governments.
In a letter, MEPs urged Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and his French counterpart to consider a joint bailout of the rail firm.
They wrote: “The future of rail travel across the Channel is at stake if no solution is found.
“This would not only negatively impact economies on both sides of the Channel and lead to significant job losses, it would also seriously undermine efforts to make transport more sustainable in Europe.
“Rail travel is much more sustainable than air travel, and it is crucial that we service more and more short-haul journeys via this mode.
“The survival of the Eurostar company and rail connectivity across the Channel is in the interests of both the EU and the UK.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to the difficulties facing the company and note that many airline companies have already benefitted from significant financial aid.”
The British Government has agreed unprecedented survival packages with airlines to assist with their own passenger slumps.
This includes an £8 million guarantee to cover business rates liabilities at each major English airport.
While Eurostar is in negotiations with both London and Paris over a potential bailout, its chiefs have bemoaned the lack of support compared to airlines.
Irish MEP Ciaran Cuffe, who organised the letter, called on governments to consider the environmental impact of allowing the rail link to fail while airlines are bailed out.
He said: “Allowing Eurostar to fail would mean significant job losses and deal a massive blow to sustainable travel between the UK and the EU.
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“Together with a group of cross-party MEPs and colleagues in the UK, I am calling on all sides to work together to ensure a solution is found as soon as possible.
“Eurostar’s survival is in the interests of both the EU and the UK. If this requires funding from both the UK and French governments, then the money must be found. Sustainable travel deserves support.”
He added: “Airlines have received massive support to survive the pandemic. Therefore, it is fitting that more sustainable travel modes also receive the help they deserve to recover as travel resumes later this year.”
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Under Boris Johnson’s roadmap to lifting the lockdown restrictions in England, international travel is not expected to resume until at least May 17.
The Government said it “will determine when international travel should resume, which will be no earlier than May 17”.
It announced a review of travel with a report due to be published on April 12 with recommendations about how to kickstart international travel while managing mutant coronavirus strains.
Current travel restrictions, such as testing, quarantine and border closures, have caused demand to tumble.
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