Cross-Channel rail operator Eurostar has warned it is battling for survival and is calling on the Government to dish out more financial support.
Eurostar, which has seen demand slump by 95 per cent this year, claimed it was being treated unfairly after the aviation sector was given huge financial support to help it see through the coronavirus pandemic, while its sector has been left out in the cold.
On Tuesday, the Government announced it will cover up to £8million worth of business rates liabilities at every major airport across England.
A spokesman for Eurostar said: ‘The new scheme of rates relief for airports puts Eurostar at a direct disadvantage against its airline competitors.
Struggling: Cross-Channel rail operator Eurostar has warned it is battling for survival
‘Eurostar has been left fighting for its survival against a 95pc drop in demand, while aviation has received over £1.8bn in support through loans, tax deferrals and financing.
‘We would ask this scheme to be extended to include international rail services, and more generally for the Government to incorporate high-speed rail in its support for the travel sector, and in doing so help protect the green gateway to Europe.’
Eurostar has slashed its timetables this year due to the collapse in demand for foreign travel amid global lockdown restrictions.
It is running just one train in each direction a day between London and Paris, and between London and Amsterdam via Brussels.
The firm operated more than 50 daily services before the pandemic.
Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘RMT is calling on the Government to step in immediately to give lifeline financial support for the important international infrastructure role fulfilled by Eurostar and the thousands of jobs supported both directly and indirectly by the service.
‘It is wholly wrong that Eurostar, an eco-friendly service that is a beacon for the future of our railways, is being denied the kind of financial support being offered to the airports.
‘The current inaction leaves the service hanging by a thread and all we are asking for is the support needed to maintain viability and stability as we move out of this phase of lockdown and look forward to the future.’
Worrying: Eurostar has slashed its timetable of trains this year due to the collapse in demand
On Tuesday, ministers handed grants to airports in England equivalent to their annual business rates bills, in the first sector-specific invention of the coronavirus crisis.
But, a decision to cap the subsidy at £8million per airport site means the support will only cover a fraction of larger airports’ overall bill.
A spokesman for Heathrow said this week: ‘While we welcome the Government’s recognition that airports have been devastated by Covid-19 and are struggling to survive under the burden of massive rates bills, today’s announcement doesn’t go far enough.
‘The proposed reduction in business rates for Heathrow is only 7pc, compared to an 82pc reduction in passenger numbers.’
Last week, Heathrow announced that it was furloughing all of its top management team apart from the chief executive in a bid to save money.
Airlines have also been handed over £125billion by governments around the world to survive during the pandemic, according to trade body IATA. But, the sector says it is still in a perilous position.
Alexandre de Juniac, the IATA’s director general, said that without the financial support, ‘we would have seen bankruptcies on a massive scale.’