• France's news in English

Britain to put its stake in Eurostar up for sale

AFP/The Local · 4 Dec 2013, 13:01

Published: 04 Dec 2013 08:43 GMT+01:00
Updated: 04 Dec 2013 13:01 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The British government  announced on Wednesday it is to sell its 40 percent stake in Eurostar, the high-speed rail service connecting London with Paris and Brussels, as part of a privatisation drive.

Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander was to unveil the country's new national infrastructure plan (NIP), which sets out how it will privatise £20 billion ($32 billion, €24.1 billion ) of financial and corporate assets over the next six years.

The government expects £375 billion of public and private investments by 2030, according to the report.

Major insurers boosted the plans by announcing they are seeking to invest £25 billion in infrastructure projects over the next five years.

"This is great news for the people of the UK because after years of neglect, the UK's energy, road, rail, flood defence, communications and water infrastructure needs renewal," Alexander was to say, according to extracts of his speech

"It will boost the UK economy creating jobs and making it easier to do business. It will also make the UK a better place to live for everyone who calls it their home."

Eurostar recently announced a 10 percent rise in revenues and five percent spike in passenger numbers compared with the same period last year.

The government expects to reap hundreds of millions of pounds from selling its stake in the cross-channel rail operator.

Eurostar is currently owned by France, Britain and Belgium with French rail operator SNCF owning a 55 percent stake and Belgium's national rail company NMBS/SNCB owning a 5 percent stake.

Marc Fressoz, a French author who specialises in transport, said it was a "good time" to sell.

"Eurostar has reached maturity on the market. It has seen off air travel on the Paris-London and Brussels-London routes," he told AFP.

He predicted that SNCF or SNCB could be tempted to increase their share.

But if a pension fund or another private investor comes in, Eurostar could face demands to increase its short-term profitability in a way that state investors do not, Fressoz said.

Eurostar is in rude health, having recorded operating profits of 91 million pounds last year - boosted by the London Olympics - compared with 20.8 million in 2011, and it saw passenger numbers rise two percent to 9.9 million in the same period.

Story continues below…

The stronger performance continued in the first quarter of this year with a 10-percent rise in revenues on the back of passenger numbers which climbed five percent.

But competition beckons. Germany's Deutsche Bahn got the green light in June to run trains through the Channel Tunnel and is expected to start offering services linking London to Frankfurt, Cologne, Amsterdam and Rotterdam in 2016.

Eurostar services started in November 1994, six months after British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and French president Francois Mitterrand inaugurated the Channel Tunnel.

In June this year the EU told Britain and France to act to bring down charges for trains running via the under-sea Channel tunnel, saying both passengers and freight operators were paying too much.

Eurostar then suggested it would be willing to lower its ticket prices if Eurotunnel agrees to lower their charges, the train operator’s chief confirmed in an interview. 

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France’s 'Jungle' children arrive in UK
Authorities will start to clear the ‘Jungle’ migrant camp on Monday. Photo: Denis Charlet / AFP file picture

The first group of children from the French "Jungle" migrant camp with no connection to Britain have arrived in the country, the Home Office said Sunday, ahead of the camp's planned demolition.

French FM calls for end to Aleppo 'massacre'
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says the international community cannot ‘come to a negotiation under the bombs’. Photo: Dominick Reuter / AFP file picture

France's foreign minister urged the international community to "do everything" to end the "massacre" in the Syrian city of Aleppo on Sunday after fighting resumed following a 72-hour truce declared by Damascus ally Russia.

French cheer police, reviving Charlie spirit
French police officers on Saturday demonstrated for the fifth night in a row to protest mounting attacks on officers. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

Angry French police have taken to the streets for five nights in a row -- and Parisians have started to cheer them on, reviving scenes last seen following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015.

Scarlett Johansson turns popcorn girl in Paris
US actress Scarlett Johansson greets customers at the Yummy Pop gourmet popcorn shop in the Marais district of Paris. Photo: Benjamin Cremel / AFP

Hollywood superstar Scarlett Johansson swapped the red carpet for a turn behind the counter at her new popcorn shop in Paris on Saturday.

US couple donates huge art collection to Paris
Marlene (centre) and Spencer (right) are donating their collection ‘for the benefit of art lovers’. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

A Texan couple who discovered their love for art during a trip to Paris in the 1970s are to donate the multi-million dollar collection they have amassed since to the French capital.

France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available