Thank you to everyone who has contacted me regarding Eurostar.
The pandemic has hit Eurostar extremely hard, with passenger numbers down by 95% since travel restrictions were imposed in March last year. Eurostar has decided not to run services in Kent until 2022 in order to cut costs and in January the company warned of “a real risk” to its survival without additional funding from the Government.
I believe we must have a comprehensive strategy for our regional, national and international railways to address the impact of COVID-19 on operations like Eurostar. The pandemic has understandably dominated headlines, but we cannot forget that we are still in a climate emergency and that green, efficient transport must be the future.
Eurostar has been asking the Government for assistance for several months, including an extension of the business rates relief scheme for airports to international rail services. In January, a group of London business leaders wrote to the Chancellor and the Transport Secretary, urging them to act. As you know, the Chair of the Transport Committee has also called for a “joint, bespoke UK-French solution”.
The Transport Secretary has since said that the Government may be willing to offer loan guarantees similar to those handed to British Airways and easyJet. I understand that the Government is in discussion with both Eurostar and the French Government to consider all commercial financing options available to the company. However, I am concerned about the lack of support from the Government to date and more widely, its commitment to high-speed rail.
While we continue to face the pandemic, we must not lose sight of the climate crisis. I believe it is crucial for us to transition to greener forms of travel and I can assure you that my Labour colleagues and I will continue to monitor developments closely.