EUROPE: The ALLRAIL association of new entrants to the rail market has said any government support which might be offered to Eurostar during the coronavirus pandemic should be accompanied by conditions designed to facilitate cross-Channel competition.
ALLRAIL’s comments came in response to calls for state support for Eurostar, which has asked for access to government-backed loans similar to those which have been made available to airlines during the crisis.
The association suggested that any support should be accompanied by a commercially-driven open access business model, adding that it believes passenger traffic through the Channel Tunnel could be grown significantly if market entry barriers were not so high and there were on-rail competition.
A significant issue is the availability of rolling stock meeting Channel Tunnel-specific safety requirements. ALLRAIL said Eurostar’s original Class 373 trainsets dating from the early 1990s still have a potential operational life span of 10 to 15 years. It said the governments should require the operator to make surplus sets available to competitors rather than scrapping them as it has been doing.
‘If governments bail out Eurostar, this must be tied to it making second hand rolling stock available to all privately owned new entrant operators at fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms’, said ALLRAIL Secretary General Nick Brooks.