Eurostar, the popular railway that connects the UK to mainland Europe, has reported financial trouble caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and is seeking government assistance to stay afloat.
Ridership is down to less than 1% of pre-pandemic levels, The Associated Press reported Tuesday, and owners have said that “the situation is very critical for Eurostar.”
“Without additional funding from government, there is a real risk to the survival of Eurostar, the green gateway to Europe,” the railway said in a statement to The AP.
Ridership has fallen about 95% of what it was in March 2020.
The train service crosses the English Channel to connect the UK with France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. On a normal day, there would be multiple daily trains running between the European capitals. But as of late, “there is one round trip that runs between London and Paris, and one other that runs between London and Brussels-Amsterdam. And these trains are 10% full,” Jean-Pierre Farandou, CEO of French state rail SNCF, which owns 55% of Eurostar, told France Inter Radio.
A British lobby group has asked for government funding and “swift action to safeguard its future,” and Eurostar according to Bloomberg. The lobby group urged Britain’s Treasury and Department for Transport to grant Eurostar access to Bank of England-backed loans that have been made available to international airlines as pandemic relief.
Eurostar is also asking for a temporary reduction in the track access charges it pays for use of the UK’s high-speed rail line.
Last week, SNCF senior executive Christophe Fanichet told Agence France-Presse that one of the issues in securing bail-out funding for Eurostar is that it is “seen as French by the British government and as British by the French.”
Eurostar CEO Jacques Damas has said he hopes that the governments of the four countries the rail line serves will coordinate an effort to keep the service running through the pandemic.
Throughout the pandemic, Eurostar has required passengers to fill out travel documentation before their journey attesting that they are free from COVID-19 symptoms and wear a mask at all times when onboard the train.
Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.
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