Eurotunnel forced to come up with second link between France and UK | UK | News


This week, Eurostar confirmed it secured a financial support package that will pave the way for its recovery. The £250million refinancing package largely consists of additional equity and loans from a syndicate of banks guaranteed by the shareholders, including the French state railway group SNCF, Patina Rail LLP, the Belgian state train operator SNCB, and funds managed by the infrastructure team of Federated Hermes. The support will enable Eurostar to continue to operate and meet its financial obligations in the short-to-medium term.

Passenger numbers on the cross-Channel train service – which reaches the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands – have dropped to just one percent of pre-pandemic levels, prompting fears for the future of the transport provider.

Eurostar appealed to the UK Government for financial support in January after the pandemic left the company “fighting for survival”.

It was not that long ago that cross-channel traffic was so high, Britain and France looked at building new links.

According to a BBC report, when the owner Eurotunnel won the contract to build its undersea connection, the French firm was obliged to come up with plans for a second Channel Tunnel by the year 2000.

Although those plans were published the same year, the tunnel did not go ahead because the cost was too high.

The former executive chairman of EuroTunnel Patrick Ponsolle said at the time: “Eurotunnel would only embark on such a venture if it would enhance the long-term profitability of the company and was in the interest of its shareholders.”

In 2017, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was then serving as Foreign Secretary under Theresa May, re-explored the idea, as he suggested building a 22-mile road crossing between the UK and France after Brexit.

Mr Johnson believed the bridge would have boosted Britain’s tourism industry.

He wrote on Twitter: “Our economic success depends on good infrastructure and good connections.

“Should the Channel Tunnel be just a first step?”

Then, during a UK-France summit at Sandhurst military academy, Mr Johnson said: “We need a new fixed link between the UK and France.

“It’s crazy that two of the biggest economies in the world are connected by one railway line when they are only 20 miles apart.”

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Mr Macron reportedly liked the idea and he is said to have replied: “I agree.

“Let’s do it.”

Eurotunnel bosses immediately requested a meeting with British officials about a second crossing between the UK and Europe.

In a letter to former Prime Minister Theresa May, the French Chief Executive of Eurotunnel said he was “very interested” in a second fixed link and would have been “delighted” to start discussions.

The note from Eurotunnel Chief Executive Jacques Gounon read: “The idea of a second fixed link is something that we regularly consider in our long term plans and we would be delighted to engage with your officials to explore the possibility further.”

A source at the company told The Telegraph demand was rising and a second connection would have been required.

They also confirmed the letter had been sent right after Mr Johnson’s remarks about building a bridge.

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The company said it was “fully engaged” to “deliver the best possible solutions for industry and consumers in the post-Brexit relationship”, adding that “exploratory work could be worthwhile now”.

The letter added: “The acknowledgement of such potential is a strong indicator of confidence in the future of the economy.”

Despite the enthusiasm, Mrs May’s official spokesman repeatedly declined to offer support for the idea.

France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, also appeared to be lukewarm about the concept of a bridge.

He told Europe 1 radio: “All ideas merit consideration, even the most far-fetched ones.

“We have major European infrastructure projects that are complicated to finance. Let’s finish things that are already under way before thinking of new ones.”

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