Eurostar traffic through the Channel Tunnel fell by 20% in the first quarter as travel restrictions were imposed to counter Covid-19.

Passengers using the high speed rail service dropped to below 2 million over the same three months last year.

The reduction was partly due to the impact of a strike at French railway operator SNCF against pension reforms in January, and by travel restrictions imposed by the UK, French and Belgian authorities in March to limit the impact of the pandemic, Eurotunnel parent Getlink said.

This contributed to an 8% decline in railway network revenue to €66.6 million in the period.

Total revenue from Shuttle traffic through the Channel Tunnel was down by 9% to €133.6 million as the number of cars using the service dropped by as much as 70% in March.

Getlink warned that it is “no longer possible” to maintain 2020 profit objectives due to “decisions taken by the public authorities to deal with the current health crisis”.

Group chief executive Jacques Gounon said: “Travel restrictions linked to the current health crisis have affected the group’s traffic and revenue in similar proportions to comparable modes of transport.

“In the coming weeks, the group will build on its key strength linked to the supply of essential products to the United Kingdom and France.

“Having reacted immediately by implementing protective measures and reducing costs, the group is ready to meet the expectations of its customers following the ending of lockdown.”