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Eurostar rail link in need of government help as operator slashes services, warns HS1 boss

Company hasn’t booked any December slots

Helen Coffey
Monday 12 October 2020 10:17 BST
Eurostar has slashed its timetables during the pandemic
Eurostar has slashed its timetables during the pandemic

The government needs to step in and support the Eurostar cross-Channel train link, the boss of HS1 has warned.

Dyan Crowther, who heads up the UK’s only high speed rail link, running from London to the Channel Tunnel, said the train operator has slashed its scheduled services.  

The company has gone from offering 30 trains a day to Paris and Brussels pre-pandemic, to just five a day.

Ms Crowther told MPs and peers last week that Eurostar currently hasn’t booked any slots for December in a bid to save money by paying at the last-minute, rather than up front, reports The Times.

HS1 makes its money from Eurostar and Southeastern booking slots on the line.

While UK rail franchises have received state support to prop them up during the pandemic, Eurostar makes its money entirely from ticket sales.

The operator is 60 per cent owned by French state railway SNCF; the UK government sold its 40 per cent share in 2015.

The 109km HS1 line runs from St Pancras International to the Channel Tunnel, with stops at Stratford International, Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International.

Eurostar has already cut out the interim stops of Ebbsfleet and Ashford and won’t reintroduce services from these stations until 2022.

A Eurostar spokesperson told The Independent: “As with all international operators, travel restrictions have impacted demand and we are running a minimal service at the moment to enable customers who need to travel to do so in a safe way.  

“The current environment is very unpredictable which means we have to monitor demand and update our timetable in response.”

The Department for Transport told The Times it would “continue to engage with [Eurostar] as part of our efforts to support the recovery of international travel”.

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