SNCF gets EU green light for Eurostar takeover

The EU approved on Wednesday French rail operator SNCF's takeover of cross-channel train company Eurostar but said it must allow new rivals to ply its blue-ribbon routes.

SNCF gets EU green light for Eurostar takeover
A Eurostar train (R) is seen beside traffic on the motorway, near Rochester, south of London, October 2014. Photo: AFP

Brussels said it will have to change the terms of a deal which would have “hindered the entry of competitors” on the London-Paris and London-Brussels services.

It feared the original takeover deal would have limited competitors' access to rail stations in France and Belgium and to maintenance depots in France, Belgium and Britain.

“The European Commission has approved the planned merger involving the acquisition of sole control of Eurostar International Limited by the French rail operator SNCF MOBILITES,” it said in a statement.

“The Commission's decision is conditional on compliance with commitments designed to facilitate the entry of new rail operators onto the London-Brussels and London-Paris routes, on which Eurostar is currently the only operator.”

The Commission — the EU's powerful executive arm which also regulates competition issues — said the original deal would have the effect of “perpetuating Eurostar's dominant position on these markets.”

When the company was created in 2010, Eurostar International was jointly controlled by SNCF and the British government, with the French operator as the minority partner.

Britain announced on March 4th that it was selling its stake to a private enterprise and SNCF negotiated a package that would allow it to gain exclusive control over Eurostar.

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Eurostar’s souvenir bomb warning after Paris station evacuated

Passengers on Eurostar have been warned about bringing shells that have been turned into souvenirs onto the trains after Paris' Gare du Nord station had to be evacuated.

Eurostar's souvenir bomb warning after Paris station evacuated
The Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord was evacuated
The Paris transport hub had to be evacuated early on Monday morning after a World War II shell was found in a passenger's bag.


The evacuation, which happened at about 5.45am on Monday, was completed by 10am, but has led to longer than usual queues for Eurostar services.

It is the latest in a series of security alerts caused by passengers trying to take souvenir war artillery on to trains.

Eurostar issued a special warning ahead of the First World War commemorations in November 2018, but with just a month to go until memorial events for the D Day landings, there are fears that the problems could recur.
“As you're travelling during the commemoration period, please remember that you can't bring any real or replica bombs, shells (complete or partial) or weapons on board – even if you bought them from a gift shop,” Eurostar told passengers last year.
“If you bring them with you, they'll be confiscated at security and may result in the need to evacuate the station.”
Old World War I shells turned into flower pots have been popular souvenirs in Belgium and France ever since the end of the conflict, but passengers attempting to take them on board trains for Britain have sparked bomb scares in recent years.
Some of the alerts, which happen every few months, have also been caused by war memorabilia collectors bringing back disarmed ordnance unearthed by farmers at battle sites in northeast France.
Eurostar said even disarmed shells can set off X-ray alarms.