The government must “pull out all the stops” to save Eurostar, according to the TSSA union.
General secretary Manuel Cortes issued the plea after a meeting with Treasury officials aimed at preventing the collapse of the channel tunnel train operator.
Eurostar services have been decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic, with just two services running each day, and the TSSA and the TUC have developed a formal paper for the Treasury to outline the support they believe is needed.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps recently told the transport select committee the government had no plans to bail out Eurostar despite the rail operator warning it was in a “critical state” because the company is majority owned by the French state.
Shapps made clear the UK government would resist calls to provide financial aid to Eurostar, although he said “we will look to be helpful”.
Cortes said: “The focus now must be on recovery and we will do everything we can to ensure that Eurostar has a bright future. Ministers must pull out all the stops and work with us in this urgent task to safeguard Britain’s green gateway to Europe.
“Eurostar remains in a perilous situation but is far too important to fail. I know the company, and all our brilliant members, are ready to get back to a normal service as soon as it is safe to do so. The Treasury should make every effort to ensure that happens. No ifs, no buts.”
Speaking to the committee last month, Shapps said: “Eurostar is a majority state-owned French company, with some Belgian and some French Canadian ownership.”
“We’ll look to be helpful but we don’t own the company. We sold our shares. It’s a French issue. Eurostar has SNCF, the French state railway, behind it.”
The committee has previously called for a “joint UK-French solution”, with committee chairman Huw Merriman MP insisting: “We simply cannot afford to lose Eurostar.”
Pension fund Equitix, which jointly owns the High Speed 1 rail connection between London and the Channel tunnel, weighed in last month, when chief operating officer Siôn Jones declared: “Supporting Eurostar is an issue for both the UK and French governments.”