Eurostar chairman books ticket to Paris to join Vinci

Michael Harrison,Business Editor
Tuesday 24 December 2013 03:09
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The chairman of Eurostar, David Azéma, is quitting to join the French transport and construction group that made an unsuccessful bid last year for the UK airports operator TBI.

Mr Azéma is to take up his new role as chief executive of Vinci Concessions in September after three years as head of the cross channel train operator.

The return to France is motivated partly by professional considerations and partly by personal reasons – Mr Azéma's family is keen to return to Paris.

Mr Azéma said he would still spend time in the UK where Vinci has the concession to operate the 27 estuary crossings. But he would not be drawn on whether the French group intended to expand its UK operations or renew its interest in TBI, the owner of Luton, Belfast and Cardiff airports.

Vinci allowed its hostile bid for TBI to lapse after TBI's share price collapsed in the wake of 11 September.

Mr Azéma, who stepped back to become non-executive chairman of Eurostar five months ago, intends to present plans for a sweeping overhaul of the company to its UK, French and Belgium owners before he leaves.

Under the plan Eurostar will be run as a single entity. At present the three shareholders, London and Continental Railways, the state-owned French railway SNCF and its Belgian counterpart SNCB are responsible for running services and employing staff in their own territories.

Mr Azéma said it was akin to the "brain" of the operation – the London headquarters of Eurostar group being separated from its legs and arms. The only functions which are carried out at group level are marketing and strategic planning.

The concession to operate Eurostar UK is managed by a consortium which includes British Airways and National Express. Mr Azéma would not be drawn on whether their involvement would expand or reduce when the reorganisation was complete.

Before joining Eurostar Mr Azéma held a variety of posts in France with SNCF and as an adviser to the French Employment minister.

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