And the news has prompted Robert Oulds, director of the Bruges Group think tank, to ask: “Do they think we were born yesterday?” Alliance of Passenger Rail New Entrants in Europe (ALLRAIL), a Belgium-based group representing independent passenger rail companies, today circulated a press release in which it outlined the apparent double-standard by SNCF, which hold a 55 percent stake in Eurostar, with investors owning 40 percent and the Belgian government having a five percent stake.
Specifically, it highlighted a remark by SNCF chief executive Jean-Pierre Farandou during an interview with the Financial Times last week, when he said Eurostar’s “financial situation is going to be very difficult at end of May 2021. Eurostar is strategic, it’s geopolitical”.
The FT’s article furthermore claims Eurostar is losing in the region of £500million (£585million) a year – the same amount Mr Farandou claims is needed to prop it up.
His comments follow on from those of France’s Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari last month during his appearance before a UK Parliamentary hearing, when he said the French government was prepared to help Eurostar and begged the UK to do follow suit.
Despite this, SNCF’s website in October confirmed plans for a new high-speed rail link in Spain, ALLRAIL pointed out, at a cost of €600million (£513million) according to an EL Pais interview with the CEO of Ouigo Spain Hélène Valenzuela, with services due to get underway in May.
Mr Oulds told Express.co.uk: “The French must think we were born yesterday.
“While they are trying to bully us into getting our vaccine, putting British lives at risk because they cannot sort their own health problems and vaccination programme, out themselves.
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“And they want to put them on to the British taxpayer whilst maximising their profits and investing elsewhere.”
Mr Oulds added: “Britain should stand firm. It should say that HS2 is a waste of money, and we don’t need it.
“We should say, we don’t need to invest in HS1 either and the Eurostar.
“It’s just a white elephant, that is not working at this time because the French haven’t sorted out their own COVID situation.
“Britain should stand firm and say, no, this is your mess, you’re gonna sorted out, you need to accept the moral hazard.
“The British taxpayer will not be paying you to make a profit from your company.”
ALLRAIL Secretary General Nick Brooks said: “The EU and UK must prevent state aid to market dominant companies that are investing elsewhere unless there are conditions.
“SNCF wants up to €585million for Eurostar while spending €600million on OUIGO.”
Express.co.uk has contacted Eurostar to offer them a chance to comment.