Politics

Eurostar POLL: Should Britain buy struggling French rail giant – and rename it Brit-star?

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Speaking earlier this week, French junior transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari told a parliamentary hearing in Paris talks with the UK Government aimed at ensuring the cross-Channel train operator survives the coronavirus pandemic were already underway. However, speaking yesterday, Robert Oulds, director of the Bruges Group think tank, said Boris Johnson should go further.

He told Express.co.uk: “It needs to be saved. But we must take back control from the French.

“We can call it Brit-star – or Brit Tunnel.”

Some Express.co.uk readers were taken with the suggestion.

One was broadly supportive – but added: “No Brit-star is rubbish name…Brex-Express shortened to Brex-Ex.

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“Imagine it rolling into Paris a couple times a day. Hilarious.

“We could paint in silver and give it a fish scale pattern for even more fun.”

Another added: “Brit-star – love to see that, the Remoaners would have a panic attack.”

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However, others were far from convinced, with some citing concerns over the attitude of France, led by President Emmanuel Macron, to Brexit.

One said: “I say let the thing fail… I just can’t see how UK taxpayers money can be spent on a loss-making EU vanity project.. the liabilities must be horrendous.”

Another warned: “Don’t touch it with a 10-foot barge-pole.

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“We’ve seen how the French are behaving with regard to imports and they’d be exactly the same within one minute of the UK acquiring Eurostar – paperwork, environmental standards, passenger lists etc. etc. We know their modus operandi.”

Mr Djebbari told the committee the French state would be “at Eurostar’s side in order to maintain this strategic link between our two countries”.

Support would be provided “based on our involvement in Eurostar, so that we can financially sustain its business model”, he stressed.

French state rail company SNCF owns a 55 percent stake in Eurostar, with the UK Government having sold its interest in the company to private investors for £757million five years ago.

The operator has been badly impacted by the coronavirus crisis, with a 95 percent fall in passenger numbers.

It is running just one daily train in each direction between London and Paris, and between London and Amsterdam via Brussels.

The firm, which has a fleet of 27 trains, operated more than 50 daily services prior to the pandemic.

Most of its unused rolling stock is being currently being stored at Eurostar’s Temple Mills depot in east London.

SNCF chief executive Jean-Pierre Farandou told France Inter radio this week that “the situation is very critical for Eurostar”.

The actual Channel Tunnel itself is owned by Getlink, another French company.

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