Eurostar could go bust within months without a rescue package, MPs and business leaders warn.
Eurostar passenger numbers have plummeted 95 per cent since last March. It is now operating just two services a day to save money.
Industry projections suggest Eurostar, which is majority-owned by the French government, could go bust as early as April. Top London firms and chief executives, including Tom Athron, the chief executive of Fortnum and Mason, wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps over the weekend urging them to act. MPs also wrote to Mr Sunak last month.
Without a rescue package Eurostar could go bust, according to MPs and business leaders
Passengers numbers have fallen 95 per cent since last March and it now only operates two services a day
A Department for Transport spokesman said it has been ‘engaging extensively’ with Eurostar since the pandemic began.
Ministers have also been warned a collapse risks increased fares for domestic services between Kent and London, which use the same route, because Eurostar pays to use the UK side of the line.
Sir Roger Gale, one of 12 MPs who wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak last month urging him to offer financial support, said French and UK ministers should come up with a joint plan.
He said: ‘The fact is the fast link line from London St Pancras to Ashford and beyond to the tunnel is paid for on a per use basis by Eurostar and if they are not using it that means on that line the fares domestically potentially will have to rise.
‘So this is not about pouring money into a black hole.
‘We have to look ahead to when the pandemic ends. We have got to keep those routes and re-establish them.
‘It is a vital link to mainland Europe. I don’t believe we’ve actually done enough to support our transport industries and I include aviation in that. But I do think there is a case for offering some help to make sure that Eurostar survives.’
Sir Roger Gale is one of 12 MPs to have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak last month urging him to offer financial support
A letter was also sent over the weekend by top London firms and CEOs to Mr Sunak and transport secretary Grant Shapps urging them to act.
Its signatories include Tom Athron, the CEO of the Queen’s grocer Fortnum and Mason, Brian Bickell, chief executive of West End landlord Shaftesbury, Basil Scarsella, chief executive of UK Power Networks and the bosses of City law firms Pinsent Masons and Clyde & Co.
It says Eurostar could run out of funds ‘in the coming months’, particularly given the emergence of new more infectious virus strains which have led to a further shutdown of international travel.
The line, which connects London with Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, has been credited with reducing carbon emissions.
It launched in 1994 and since then the number of flights between London and Paris has more than halved.
A Eurostar spokesman said: ‘We are encouraged by the government backed loans that have been awarded to airlines and would once again ask that this kind of support be extended to international high-speed rail which has been severely impacted by the pandemic.
‘Without additional funding from government there is a real risk to the survival of Eurostar, the green gateway to Europe, as the current situation is very serious.’