Spanish firm on track to challenge Eurostar

Spain’s state-owned rail operator, Renfe, has held talks about running high-speed passenger services between London St Pancras and Paris.

The operator is developing plans for a train service that would compete with Eurostar and provide it with an alternative route into the French passenger market, according to Railway Gazette International.

Since the Channel Tunnel opened in 1994, Eurostar has not had competition on running rail services under the English Channel.

Eurostar has been majority-owned by French state operator SNCF since 2015.

The Telegraph reported: “Renfe’s plans to encroach on the SNCF-owned monopoly under the Channel follow the French operator launching services in Spain earlier this year.

“Renfe said: ‘According to the demand analysis carried out, it would be viable and profitable for Renfe to compete with Eurostar’.”

In 2019, Eurostar carried more than 11 million passengers and provided more than 80% of journeys between London and each of Paris and Brussels.

However, the pandemic badly hit Eurostar and services dropped to as few as one a day.

The company secured a £250 million refinancing deal with its shareholders and banks in May.

Eurostar said at the time it had suffered a more severe decline in demand than any other European train operator or competitor airline during the pandemic.

The Financial Times said: “While running trains from the UK to the continent is technically comparatively simple, the border infrastructure needed to run passport and security checks within stations has stifled the growth of high-speed rail between the UK and Europe.”

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