Eurostar secures bailout
Eurostar has received a bailout to secure its future.
Banks and shareholders, led by the French government, injected a shot of £250 million into Eurostar's finances, enabling the company to keep swimming, rather than sink. For months, Eurostar had warned that it's future was in doubt and that it needed cash urgently. With international travel almost non-existent for months, Eurostar had to withstand a drop of 95% in passenger numbers. Hopefully, as restrictions lift and travel opens up again, Eurostar can embark on a path to increasing train and passenger numbers, and a healthy future. That is of course good news, in many respects. Everyone wants to see cross-channel train services survive.
However, it would be good if the bailout came with some preconditions about improving the way Eurostar operates. Because for the future of international rail travel between the UK and continental destinations, Eurostar needs to up its game.
There is so much potential. There are so many people who want to travel on Eurostar as part of a longer journey into Europe. There are thousands of destinations in Europe that can be reached by train, instead of flying or driving — not to mention hundreds of ski destinations.
But the way that Eurostar operates, in terms of information, ticketing, booking etc, it makes this so much more difficult that it needs to be. It's not all Eurostar's fault. The whole European ticketting system is batshit crazy and doesn't work properly. Eurostar could be a proactive part of the solution, but it doesn't seem to recognise the problem, and has actively contributed to it (such as by introducing it's Voyager ticketing system which reduces journey options).
For years, I've witnessed the huge enthusiasm for international rail travel, by skiers and other travellers, come up against the total nonsense that is the way international train information, ticketing and booking is organised. And Eurostar's policies and modus operandi has been part of the problem.
It's is really, really, really, really, really, frustrating — and a huge missed opportunity.
For now, it's good news that Eurostar is surviving. But travellers making international train journeys deserve a better rail future, and Eurostar must up it's game and be part of the solution, not part of the problem.