The future of Eurostar: How can we save our green link to Europe?
By Manuel Cortes
It’ll come as a surprise to no one that Covid is still causing problems for holiday-makers. The myriad of issues – whether it is the constant flicker from green to amber and back again for the countries considered safe to travel to without isolating; the so-called ‘pingdemic’ which is not a problem of the Covid track and trace app, more a problem of the high number of cases; or just the uncertainty around booking due to holiday cancellations.
All this has meant the summer recovery has been elusive.
Eurostar has had to refinance twice now, in March 2021 it borrowed £400mil and received a cash injection of £170million from its owners; and again in May 2021 to the tune of £250m. The company was one of the first to stop running its services and has had to reduce from 20 trains to Paris a day to 1 train a day for most of lockdown. Since getting the new finance deal in place in May it ramped up to 3 trains a day and hoped to have a good summer to try and recoup some of its losses.
We always thought this was a bit ambitious, but we heard that Eurostar has now frozen its plans to ramp up the services beyond the 3 trains a day and talks are taking place between the company and the recognised trade unions regarding what happens when furlough ends on 30 September.
Despite 70% of Eurostar staff being based in Britain, so far the Tory government have been hiding behind the French state ownership and refusing to commit any support to the company or the staff.
We know that the government have bailed out airlines as a result of Covid, but have been shy about helping the only green link to the European mainland, a service which takes 60,000 planes out of the sky and saves 580,000 tonnes of CO2 per year polluting the atmosphere. And all this in the run-up to the climate negotiations taking place under Britain’s Presidency of the COP26 held in Glasgow in November.
Johnson has been espousing his green credentials to the world but is prepared to let Eurostar fail, the consequences of which could be catastrophic to our emissions targets and green economy.
We can’t stand by and allow this to happen. All three of the rail unions have united together under the same banner to call for Shapps, the Transport Secretary to take charge of the situation and give our Eurostar workers some reassurance that their jobs and skills are valued. We are linking up with Friends of the Earth to make the case plainly – support Eurostar now or suffer the climate consequences.
Manuel Cortes is the General Secretary of TSSA union, he will be speaking alongside Mick Lynch (RMT GS) and Mick Whelan (Aslef GS) as well as Eurostar staff rep Sonja Van Wingerden and Friends of the Earth transport campaigner Jenny Bates.
To attend the online meeting on Wednesday 4 August, 18:30 register here https://bit.ly/Eurostar4August