Spanish rail company to bid for Paris to London route

Spanish railway company Renfe wants to begin a high-speed train service between Paris and London, taking advantage of the slots still available in the tunnel under the English Channel, the company said on Tuesday.

Renfe wants to challenge Eurostar's monopoly on the Channel Tunnel crossing
Renfe wants to challenge Eurostar's monopoly on the Channel Tunnel crossing. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

“Renfe wants to operate on the Paris-London high-speed line through the Eurotunnel, and has already started initial contacts to compete with Eurostar,” the company behind the service 55 percent owned by France’s SNCF, the Spanish company told AFP, confirming a report in Spanish daily El Pais.

“At the moment there are available paths and capacity to operate on the High Speed line,” Renfe added, specifying that it had already carried out a market study showing that it would be “profitable.”

The high-speed line between Paris and London, operated by Eurostar, connects the two capitals in two hours and 15 minutes through the tunnel opened in 1994. Before the pandemic, it was used by nine million passengers annually.

Eurostar train traffic fell sharply from 2020 due to the health crisis, but “it was growing until Covid-19, a trend expected to recover next year,” Renfe stressed.

The Spanish company expects to operate its service with its own trains, starting with a minimum of seven, and believes taking a share of the London-Paris line will help it enter the French market.

“In a second phase, the service could be extended to new French and international destinations,” the company said.

Renfe announced in July 2019 its desire to launch into French routes, freshly opened to competition, with a high-speed train service between Marseille and Lyon.

However, it ended up denouncing “numerous obstacles” to its aspirations.

In contrast, SNCF is already operating in the Spanish market with its low-cost Ouigo line linking Madrid and Barcelona (northeast) inaugurated in May in which it invested €600 million.

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UPDATE: French air traffic controllers cancel strike action in September

The main union representing French air traffic controllers has cancelled calls for a strike from September 28th to 30th, after "reaching an agreement with their supervisory ministry."

UPDATE: French air traffic controllers cancel strike action in September

SNCTA, the main union for air traffic controllers said this week that they had lifted their calls for a three-day strike at the end of September after coming to an agreement with France Ministry of Transport. 

In a statement on its website, the SNCTA said “In view of the concrete progress made on the demands, the SNCTA is lifting its [strike] notice for September 28th, 29th and 30th. The strong mobilisation of September 16th was necessary and instrumental for reaching this conciliation in a very constrained calendar. Thank you to all of you!” 

The French ministry of transport has not yet commented on the above agreement or lifting of the strike.

The International Air Transport Association tweeted their support for the SNCTA’s decision to cancel further industrial action, calling Friday’s strike “unnecessary.”

The association also urged the European Union to implement a “Single European Sky.” This reform, which was put forward almost 20 years ago, has not yet reached fruition. It intends to shift the current system of air traffic organisation away from national borders and toward a “coherent zone” in order to reduce emissions and save both time and money.

The strike on September 16th left over 1,000 flights in France grounded, as well as widespread delays and over 2,400 flight cancellations across Europe. 

The SNCTA mobilised for wage increases due to the rising cost of living, in addition to an acceleration of recruitment in order to anticipate a wave of retirements. After Friday’s action, the union had called for further strikes from September 28th to 30th before reaching an agreement with their supervisory ministry.