UK Government begins Eurostar rail sell-off

By staff writers
October 13, 2014

The government has announced that it is seeking bids for its shareholding in the Eurostar cross-Channel train service as part of its plans to raise up to £20 billion in the sale of state assets by 2020.

The majority shareholder, with a holding 55 per cent, is the French state railway SNCF. The Belgian state rail operator SNCB holds five per cent and the UK government's stake is 40 per cent.

A bidding document from the banker UBS reports Eurostar passenger numbers and revenue as increasing each year since its inception in 1994, reaching 10.1million and £857million respectively in 2013. it expects new services to Amsterdam and Lyon and a planned investment in rolling stock to increase capacity by 20 per cent.

The proposed sell-off has been criticised by the unions. Frances O'Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said: “Eurostar has thrived under public ownership, returning millions in profits each year to the Treasury. However, now it too has become a victim of the government’s ‘private works best’ market dogma.

“Privatisation has been a disaster for the UK’s railways. Train firms rely upon public subsidies to turn a profit, virtually all of which ends up in shareholders’ pockets, rather than being re-invested back into the network.

“By choosing to ignore this evidence ministers are once again putting the interests of private companies and shareholders before those of passengers and taxpayers.”

The General Secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union (RMT), Mick Cash called the proposed sale "a gross act of betrayal of the British people".

He added: "The French and Belgians think we are insane knocking off such a valuable and strategic infrastructure asset."

[Ekk/4]

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