Eurostar Near Collapse, Asks for Bailout, Becomes Hot Potato

Traffic down 95%. To run out of money by April.

By Nick Corbishley, for WOLF STREET:

Eurostar, the company that operates the cross-Channel train service that connects the UK with France, Belgium and the Netherlands, is on the brink of collapse, the company’s management warned this week. With passenger numbers down 95% in the final quarter of 2020 and revenues down over 80% over the course of 2020, it is now “on a drip” and in desperate need of extra cash, says Christophe Fanichet, a senior executive of France’s state SNCF railways, which is the majority shareholder of Eurostar. “I’m very worried about Eurostar. The company is in a critical state, I’d even say very critical,” he said.

In 2019, Eurostar shuttled 11 million passengers back and forth between the UK and Continental Europe — London St Pancras on one side, and Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam on the other. While generally more expensive than budget air fares, it is quicker, more comfortable, and drops off passengers in the center of their chosen city of destination.

But like the airlines, its whole business model has been upended by the virus crisis. At present, the company is operating only two services a day, a far cry from the two trains an hour it used to operate during peak times before the pandemic. And most of those trains are less than a quarter full. More than 90% of its workers have been furloughed.

It’s a similar story across Europe’s railway sector. Passenger numbers have plunged between 70%-90% as lockdowns, social-distancing rules, and concerns about the risks of using public transport have taken their toll. The industry is estimated to have racked up losses of €22 billion in 2020, according to CER, a Brussels-based commerce group representing passenger and freight prepare operators. That’s similar to the total losses accrued so far by Europe’s airlines. Thousands of workers are on government-subsidized furloughs.

“It’s a totally extraordinary situation,” said Libor Lochman, CER’s executive director. “There is no comparison for it, and it can and will lead to the bankruptcy of a number of companies, unless there is the political will to prevent it”.

Just as happened last Spring, travel restrictions are tightening across Europe and borders are closing as countries try to counter the spread of new strains of the Covid-19 virus. France announced on Thursday that visitors from the UK, which is no longer part of the EU, will need to observe a seven-day quarantine and undertake a PCR test on their arrival. The UK already has a quarantine system in place for travelers from the EU.

These latest travel restrictions have compounded Eurostar’s woes. It could run out of money by April, according to industry sources. To stave off that fate, the company is asking for government support of the kind already doled out to many airlines. Eurostar has already tapped shareholders for €200 million and is apparently loath to do so again, particularly given the recent tightening of travel restrictions. So it is looking further afield for help.

“We have to see how we manage to help this company in the way that airlines have been helped,” said Jean-Pierre Farandou, the CEO of SNCF, which owns 55% of Eurostar. “It would not be unusual for Eurostar to receive aid to get through this bad patch.”

The company is requesting assistance from both the French and the UK governments. But there are a couple of problems:

The UK government already sold its 40% stake in the business in 2015, at a loss of £757 million (€850 million), to Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec (CDPQ), Canada’s second largest pension fund, a Crown Corporation, owned by the government, and the UK’s Hermes Infrastructure. Of the remaining 60% of Eurostar’s shares, 55% are owned by SNCF, which is wholly owned by the French State and has itself received emergency assistance from the government. The other 5% belongs to the Belgian State.

Eurostar is also a hot potato issue in France, where it is widely regarded as delivering far more benefit to the UK economy and tourism.

Unsurprisingly, the suggestion that London should help rescue a company it sold five years ago has raised hackles on the British side of the tunnel. The Financial Times said on Tuesday that while the UK government has already shelled out billions supporting UK rail concessions, “it would be eccentric for British taxpayers to bolster the equity that French counterparts hold in Eurostar via France’s national railway company.”

The Daily Telegraph put it even more bluntly: “The Channel Tunnel is not going anywhere. It is the operating company that runs the train services between Paris and London that is in trouble, a point worth remembering as the Government is pressured to spearhead a bailout. If it goes bust, another operator will step in.”

There are some important caveats to this argument, as even The Telegraph itself concedes:

  • Given the current backdrop, there is not exactly a queue forming of potential suitors to replace Eurostar.
  • Eurostar’s current troubles are through no fault of its own and are a direct result of UK and French government policy.
  • The company is also estimated to contribute close to €1 billion a year to the British economy, when the economy is functioning at normal capacity. It also provides a vital travel link between the UK and the rest of Europe that benefits UK tourism and the City of London.
  • The UK is already struggling with the logistical nightmare left behind by Brexit.

The UK might still offer to contribute to a bailout. One possible support measure would be reduce the amount it pays out in track charges. Another option under consideration would be for the Bank of England to provide funds from its Covid loan facility. Non-UK firms qualify as long as they’re deemed to provide “a material contribution to the UK economy.” As such, Eurostar would make the grade. But it should only be on the proviso that Eurostar’s actual shareholders — the government of France with its 55% stake, the governments of Belgium and Quebec, and the UK fund — dig much deeper into their own pockets. By Nick Corbishley, for WOLF STREET.

In the twisted world of “leaseholders” and “freeholders,” who is going to pay for replacing the flammable cladding on high-rise residential buildings before another tower goes up in flames?  Read… Flammable-Cladding Crisis in Residential Towers: The UK’s Housing Nightmare with “Mortgage Prisoners”

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  135 comments for “Eurostar Near Collapse, Asks for Bailout, Becomes Hot Potato

  1. MonkeyBusiness says:

    I took my dad to London once and we then rode the Eurostar to Paris. Good times. Sad to hear about this.

    Hopefully the Japanese Shinkansen will not suffer the same fate.

    • Apple says:

      The tunnel will still be there after the pandemic.

      • MonkeyBusiness says:

        ROFL. Of course, but will we be taking Elon Musk’s hyperloop to cross it?

    • roddy6667 says:

      The pandemic is long over in Asia.

      • raxadian says:

        No, they just have better control of it and the number of cases and deaths no longer makes as many news as before.

        • Sandy toes says:

          Your point is worth pondering, if the data published by all countries is equally reliable.
          Does anyone believe the quality and accuracy of the data from some countries?

        • Bill S says:

          They have better control over the published figures, you mean. If you only see the MSM news you are mislead greatly, IMO.

      • Wolf Richter says:


        Asia? Is Japan not part of Asia?

        In the big urban areas of Japan, all heck has broken loose. Hospitals full. Ambulances not being able to drop off Covid patients at hospitals and taking them back home to let them die there. State of emergency called out a week ago. Two of my wife’s former classmates are doctors, and they’re telling horror stories. A lockdown of business is legally not possible in Japan. It has to be voluntary. Reporting is totally inadequate because apparently the government really doesn’t want to face the economic consequences. And reporting, like so many things in Japan, is still done by fax and is days behind. And the government really really wants the Olympics to take place this summer. Very little testing, and therefore very little knowledge of the extent of infections. People go to work infected. They had an outbreak at my sister-in-law’s company (a big trading company), and they tried to hush it up.

        • John Beech says:

          Thanks for the insight. I pray for them. One thing I’ve always hoped wouldn’t be true is a diminished sense of urgency for the elderly because they are elderly.

        • Wolf, and the Japanese did so well at the beginning of the Pandemic, they were a model for the rest of the world. There was some incident about a ship coming to port, but other than that, some of my doctors used to point their way as to what the U.S. should have done from Day One.

          Political and Economic Expediencies can be very deadly to the citizenry, but the hole dug by incompetence to date is so huge and deep, we need Superman to fly us out of it. Stay Safe Greetings from Hermit David

        • MonkeyBusiness says:

          I never had the impression that Japan was doing particularly well even during the first wave. Cases were relatively low during the first wave because wearing a mask was already a part of Japanese culture since way back when.

          The Japanese government also instituted a small scale lockdown, but then the whole thing probably started to unravel after people took advantage of the Go To Travel campaign.

          Also unlike the US, a lot of people were and are still commuting to work in overpacked trains (local, not the Shinkansen).

        • joe2 says:

          Say Wolf, since you have inside sources, how is Fukushima doing? There was a lot of lying going on then too.

        • NBay says:

          And I believe they have the highest number of over 60 folks in the major developed world, maybe by a lot.
          Must truly be a very sad and depressing scene in the hospitals there.

        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          Hi Wolf! It’s off topic but I was hoping you might have some word-of-mouth info on the covid-19 situation on Hokkaido. Especially if outside of Sapporo. Thanks!

      • Massbytes says:

        The Chinese are now having a lot of problems with the virus and shutdowns are spreading there.

        • MonkeyBusiness says:

          I think when some people say Asia, they clearly meant East Asia.

          Asia is the BIGGEST continent in the world: China, India, Japan, Indonesia, the whole Middle East, most of the Russian landmass, etc, they are ALL in Asia.

          It’s easier to talk about what’s not in Asia then what’s in it.

          And if you look at it that way, most of Asia are NOT doing well. Asian countries that are doing well include:
          Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Singapore let things go out of control for a time, but now they are doing very well as well.

    • Chris Herbert says:

      So much for public/private organizations. Buy out the private part and run the system according to plan. A public utility isn’t there to make shareholders rich. If that means paying some well trained people a job guarantee stipend, until the pandemic effect wanes, so be it.

  2. Javert Chip says:

    So, if you asked Willy Lowman why the UK government is being asked to bail out a Canadian & French company, the answer would be “Because that’s where the money is’.

    …maybe if the EU (and France, in particular) hadn’t been so childish during BREXIT…

    ps: EuroStar is a cool train (it’d definitely with riding if you’re ever in the neighborhood), but it’s not as if they’ll pull up the train-tracks if EuroStar goes bust. Some new company will come in and buy it at a loss to the French & Canadians.

    • nick kelly says:

      ‘Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec (CDPQ), Canada’s second largest pension fund which itself is wholly owned by the Canadian State’

      This will be news to Quebec, and if the Canadian gov tried to remove a dollar without permission there would be insurrection. Perhaps de jure one could make some kind of weird legal argument, but in practical reality, the only government influence on the Fund is Quebec’s. Sorry to quibble about a sideline to the topic but having lived through two referendums about Quebec leaving, the suggestion of the Canadian gov touching the Fund is unnerving.

    • nick kelly says:

      Possible, but the sale would be for a dollar, maybe leaving a minority interest as a face saver. And once you exclude all the ‘chancers’ and cons who would buy anything for free, and settle down with the competent operators who will guarantee the schedule, jobs, maintenance, etc. you may find only the Chinese left.

      The Brits just might go for it, but not the French.

    • Churck C says:

      I think you’re mean Willie Sutton.

      • Javert Chip says:

        Chuck C

        You are correct. This is what you get when you let old guys write without editors.

    • roddy6667 says:

      Willie Loman was in Death Of A Salesman.

    • Bob says:

      The best comment I have seen for weeks.
      And how do the French do a bail out ???
      Is that not what the argument was about on the Brit exit negotiations ??? Or is that a law just for the Uk .
      Mmmm France never takes any notice of EU law anyway never has that’s why it has so many court cases pending in the EU courts

      • Javert Chip says:


        “…And how do the French do a bail out ???…”

        Have the Germans to pay for it(?).

        • Wisoot says:

          Or bring in the undercover french secret service and blow it out the water. That solves requirement for bail out.

  3. 2banana says:

    But consumers are still consuming.

    Is rail non-passenger traffic down that much too? Hard to believe. Or is that another company entirely that handles freight?

    “With passenger numbers down 95% in the final quarter of 2020 and revenues down over 80% over the course of 2020,”

    • char says:

      In Europe rail is passenger traffic. Goods are secondary. And Eurostar does not own the track. Just the long distance passenger trains. And freight have to deal with the whole Brexit issues

      • Cashboy says:

        Eurostar don’t own the trains; they are leased.

        • char says:

          I was expecting that but did not really change the capital position of the company. Probably even wet leased to use an airline term.

    • AndyS says:

      >Is rail non-passenger traffic down that much too? Hard to believe. Or is that another company entirely that handles freight?

      Europorte handle freight through the tunnel. They are a subsidiary of Getlink who do own the channel tunnel.

  4. 2banana says:

    Doesn’t seem like such a bad financial decision now for the UK…

    Looks like the Canadian taxpayers are going to to take it on the chin.

    At what point does a sovereign state actually accept the consequences of their bad decisions?

    “The UK government already sold its 40% stake in the business in 2015, at a loss of £757 million (€850 million), to Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec (CDPQ), Canada’s second largest pension fund which itself is wholly owned by the Canadian State, and the UK’s Hermes Infrastructure.”

    • Paulo says:

      The Canadian Govt will not bail it out. It is Quebec’s pension plan, in other words, provincial. The Feds would help out Alberta and Sask with their Keystone losses, first. They already have Quebec votes, but precious little prarrie support.

      Pandemics have consequences.

      This isn’t the only entity hurting these days. It would be best to spend energy and funds controlling the pandemic and that should start in England, the country with the highest per capita death rate and a stupid haircut leader running things. I see they had to arrest 300 people at an illegal rave last night in East London. If their citizens can’t take this pandemic seriously, then sod off…..

      Help Wanted: Leadership needed.

  5. WES says:

    It is the province of Quebec’s pension plan that owns a piece of the 40% stake in Eurostar, sold by Britain.

    I am sure Canada’s prime minister Sparkle Socks will have no problem bailing out Eurostar!

    After all Quebec is his home province!

    Rode the Eurostar once.

    • Jack says:


      “Sparkle Socks “. Should be the new name for the Eurostar Tunnel Funnel! :)

      You know the World will NOT end , and the company after restructuring should be back and running again in the next 18-24 months at the worst.

      If anyone is more positioned to take losses at this conjecture it’s the TAX PAYERS !

      So yeah, the French and the Canadian citizens will end up copping it I am afraid.

      The UK will contribute to the Funds presumed necessary to cover the intervening period as this Operation contribute to the UK’s Economy to the tune is £1 billion , as stated by the article.

      Regardless of the Covid debacles that governments have created with their abysmal mismanagement , it will pass.

      The Sound science of genomics medicine

      ( if operated honestly, far from the ulterior motivation should be the basis of which governments should entrust the Economies to).

      {this is a bit contentious as relations between the political decision makers and corporate sector have been blurred to unfathomable state}

      No peer review, No adequate transparency, No adequate sampling and No reliability of quality of medical labs announcements is damaging the core of our outlook now.

      It is incumbent on governments to address this issues very quickly and move on.

      The underlining issues, if Not sorted Fast enough will be a huge millstone around our economic recoveries’ neck for the medium term.

      yet governments are falling over themselves to commit to this or that of Vaccines, only for news to continue the unbelievable scare campaign of New more viral strain!

      Once we ( the citizens) get over the abhorrent scare campaign ,we should be able to repair everything and life should continue.

      Without the need to take any of Bong man Musk’s Rockets to the planet next door!

      In the unlikelihood that all fails, maybe one of the multitudes of SPACs can take care of this one for us :)

      I mean for heaven’s sake they accumulated
      $ 80 billion in 2020, and
      $19 billion so far this year ! :)

      What are they bloody buying?! Help!

      • Nathan Dumbrowski says:

        Armchair grumble. Governments outsource and bring in private sector to better manage and privatize the service (rail, water, internet…) to save money. Then when all heck goes wild (water in MI, wild fires in CA, Pandemic everywhere) the companies all hold out their hand and say more money please. Get that there are vital services but that is the price paid for taking that slice of the profit pie. Step up and pay. As said here often Profits during the good times and Tax payer pain in the bad times. How do we stop this?

        • J Locke says:

          Wild fires are part of nature. Without wild fires, redwood trees can’t reproduce. The fires are worse because of California Government Policies. This is no different than the government thinking it can control earth’s climate. I always find it interesting that government’s solution to all problems is more taxes and more bureaucrats.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          JLocke-get your science straight-some conifers require fire to reproduce, but Redwoods DO NOT (and i plant and grow them on my property).

          Get your ‘California Government Policies’ straight, as well. The vast majority of burnt acreage in the last decade (actually longer than that) has been on FEDERAL land,-CA forestry regs don’t go there (…rake, much???).

          Throw in large numbers of people moving into the wildland interfaces, demanding PG&E/SoCalEdison/SDG&E service (where line maintenance has not been a priority until lately) in the face of a long term drought and long-term ‘natural’ fire suppression), there’s gonna be big problems among the citizenry-Nathan’s got it right, i’d like to see a more useful policy solution offered than what you’ve presented here.

          Apologies for the rant.

          may we all find a better day.

      • Javert Chip says:


        Assuming you accept the article’s claim that “…[EuroStar] Operation contributes to the UK’s Economy to the tune is £1 billion…” (I consider it dubious at best), the article also points out it’s cheaper to fly from continental Europe to London than take the EuroStar. Whatever tourists there are will still come to London.

        Other than a few unfortunate UK EuroStar employees, I doubt a EuroStar collapse/restructure will have any quantifiable impact on UK economy.

        The French, of course, will be pissed, but the French have a habit of doing that about almost anything.

        • char says:

          Flying is cheaper because it is a worse product.

        • Jack says:


          Yes JC, I gathered that the “dubious contribution “ might be just that!

          However we’re basically just bouncing ideas here of each others to make some sense of the colossal events happening all around us.

          Also Mr Corbishley have been outstanding in his reporting of Economic events in both Europe and Latin America and Mexico, so we should give him credit for that.

          God help the world Economy if the (respectable gentle ladies and men of Wolf Street) are unleashed on the political elites ;)

          Reckon we should see both the demise of Covid and the exponential growth to the world economy in one fell swoop?! :)

        • SwissBrit says:

          An airline ticket on a one person basis may be cheaper on a budget airline, but when you have multiple people in a car travelling on the train at the cost of one airline seat, with no luggage weight restrictions and no hire car costs on the other side, the savings add up considerably, even when factoring in the fuel costs.
          For our family of four, driving from Geneva to the UK (which is a trip of about 750 miles / 1200 km) the fuel and tunnel costs have always pretty much been about the same total cost as seats on easyjet without any hold luggage and a small rental car for a week or so.
          Then it’s a matter of deciding if we want to spend the full day of travelling each way and how much stuff we have to cart along with us.

    • Wes, can I order a pair of Sparkle Socks at Walmart online? If made of Silver sparkles, may help ward off the Bat Flu and even tax assessors coming to refill the Public Troughs!!

  6. Randy Oldman says:

    Please Lord, don’t let it be bought by Blackstone.

  7. Brady Boyd says:

    I think the US Fed Reserve should just deposit $5,000 Fed Coins in our digital wallets each week.

  8. timbers says:

    Meanwhile, the Boston T is closing most of it’s operation and no “company” is being shutdown aside from coffee and assorted shops on it’s rail lines. Because it’s a government run public utility as it should. Odd Eurostar isn’t, as it should be too. Govt mandated Private ownership of natural monopoly situations rarely make sense.

    • timbers says:

      Sorry meant week end outline service…M-F at regular.

    • Another Scott says:

      The MBTA is a poorly run organization that never made the necessary operational and management changes when times were good, and thus had to make draconian cuts when revenues collapsed due to COVID-19. The other alternate is the worst in the nation congestion. But not to worry, the state’s Secretary of Transportation is getting an appointment in the Biden administration.

    • char says:

      It was publicly owned before the British sold their stake to the Canadian pension fund. It is more a British issue. But the problem is also that it needs to operated in more than one political region

      • Paulo says:

        Quebec pension fun…not Canadian pension fund.

        If Texas pension corp (or whatever they call state pensions there) had a stake in BNSF, should SS bail it out? Should the Feds? I didn’t think so.

        • Paulo, just ask the British how the government run Steel Industry in Britain did before the arrival of Margaret Thatcher.

          Wolf should do a report on why AmTrack is a giant money sinkhole, and how a rationalized sized passenger rail service across our expansive country could possibly operate profitably after we beat all the Bats in Bat Flu into submission. Used to ride a train on weekends between Highland Falls, NY into Grand Central Station in NYC as a very young whipper-snapper, and these were some of the funnest times of my young life. I marveled at the long gray lines of mothballed WWII warships parked neatly up and down the Hudson River. Some things you never forget.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          David W. Young,

          Before Covid, Amtrak’s Boston-NYC-Washington DC route was profitable and heavily used. I’ve used it many times when I was living in the area. Worked great. What is not profitable are many of the other routes that Amtrak runs, where it intermingles with freight trains, often on single-track lines, and has to stop on a siding and wait for freight trains, and runs on track owned by the freight railroads, which it has to for it, etc. Some of those routes are fun, and great for vacation because they’re slow – years ago we did Chicago-Albuquerque with sleeper, dining car, and all – but they’re not profitable.

      • Concerned American says:

        Eurostar is privately owned. In what universe does that make it a liability to British taxpayers? Did they share in the profits? If not, they should not be on the hook to socialize Eurostar losses. This country is getting far too comfortable with US government bailouts.

        • char says:

          Eurostar should be a private company owned by the states. Tactical decision as a private company. strategy from a country point of view.

    • Chris Herbert says:

      Bingo timbers! Common sense that the government control natural monopolies. We used to understand this, but somewhere along the line we lost the ‘critical thinking’ gene.

    • Javert Chip says:


      There is no need for every losing train operation to be state owned (even in France).

      Compared to the European market, EuroStar is just one of 105 train operators. The entire region has 20,000 stations, and EuroStar serves 18 of them.

      90% of area served is in France, the remainder is UK, Brussels & Netherlnands

      • char says:

        It only operates on the high speed rail lines. And there are more than 105 operators if you include the tram l& metro ine operators. Which you should if you include high speed with normal speed train operators

    • Bobby Dale says:

      The MBTA, which operates the T entered 2020 projecting a deficit, read taxpayer subsidy of $36.5 million, they lose money every year, as virtually every transit system in the US has done every year since the 90’s. In the US we have a system where in most cases a private entity operates the system at a guarantee and the public is on the hook for deficits.
      Veolia, based in France, is one of the largest and most lucrative operators of transit operations in North America.
      Go to a Latin American city and see how transit should be run. Numerous small operators run routes on a hub and spoke system, all income is from riders prices rise until competition, with low cost of entry, come in.
      Best example I can give is Acapulco, don’t recommend you go there now, where innumerable cars, trucks, vans and busses run from the colonias to a hub location, which may or may not be a government facility, Walmarts being the biggest player. You can transfer there to another vehicle, possibly with the same ownership, and get to any other part of town.
      The biggest tragedy of transit in the US is “fixed route” meaning trains or bus rapid transit, these are sold as a means to help the low income workers, but inevitably they lead to gentrification, displacing those they claimed to help.

  9. Mira says:

    11 million passengers in 2019
    Gosh .. golly gosh ..
    The Eurostar is in desperate strife.

    I find it difficult to believe that the relevant governments did not explain the ‘lockdown’ side effects to Eurostar & all other multi million / billion corporate entities.

    ‘Hey man, look, things are going to be tough for a long while, we are here for you, but, no one must know .. this is how its going to go down .. at some point you do a big cry for survival routine & we will rush to your assistance .. like this we look less contriving & then understanding & sympathetic.’
    My kids were better con artist than these shysters.

    • Mira says:

      Everyone is printing money had over fist.
      ‘hey Dude, look upon this as a paid holiday, relax & enjoy.’

    • Kenny Logouts says:

      You mean… sars cov2 is real.

      But our government’s reaction to it is helping to create the biggest bailout patsy of all time, that lays blame at the feet of a virus, or China, and not at the feet of decades of fiscal incompetence and malice by the same players as those in 2007/8?

      All these businesses should fail. Support the workers who lose jobs.
      New enterprise can fill the gap later if one appears.

      Bailout = breeds weakness and encourages the wealthy to asset strip businesses knowing society will bail it out each and every time.

      • Kenny, if you run for President in 2024, I will definitely vote for you. A voice of reason in a sea of irresponsibility, fiscal & monetary MADNESS!!!

      • The Count says:

        I gotta ask if your username is a reference to Kenny Loggins?

        • Kenny Logins says:

          Logins and logouts.

          I think I tried using logins for bullish, logouts for bearish.

          But now I just use them freely because we’re well and truly in the

          Danger Zone.

          Plus I’ve no idea how to actually create a static named account here, every message seems to go via the Wolf filter.

  10. Pavel says:

    For quite a few years I was based in Paris much of the year and took the Eurostar once or twice a month to work on an IT project in London. It was a great way to travel and very relaxed. The lounges at Gare du Nord and St Pancras were fabulous and took the sting off the occasional delay or cancelled train. All in all I must have made the trip at least one hundred times.

    Very sad to hear of its plight, especially for all the staff members. Thankfully I no longer live in Paris nor need to get to London… But what a shame that things have come to this. I pity the young generation.

    BTW, anyone else old enough to remember the Hovercrafts between Folkestone and Calais? That was a pretty wild way to travel!


    • DR DOOM says:

      Bought my first motorcycle in Coventry U.K. In,1972. A Norton Commando . Floated it back to the continent on the Princess Margaret hover craft . I was stationed in Zweibrucken Germany. Bought my second one in 1973, 650 Bonneville Triumph and did the same .You could tell from the oil drips wherever an English bike had been parked. Great times . Still got the motorcycle jones on me after all these years.

      • tolkapiam says:

        Bought my 1st motorcycle used (Ideal Jawa -Czech-2 stroke 250cc) in 1980 when I got my travelling Medical Detail Man job.Later traded for a used Royal Enfield (UK) 350cc 4 stroke .oil drip stains at the parking spot is true. Next While living in HongKong for a decade no car/motorcycle. only public transport.I learnt driving car only when I landed in USA in 1997. After coming back home from USA ,i was using Suzuki compact/Hyundai sedans for 10+years with no 2 wheeler . I bought a new Yamaha 110cc auto scooter on 1-1-2015 @$1000. Now last 6 years drive 4 wheeler only when I travel as family. Alone all commuting only yamaha scooter.(40km/litre./$1.15 per litre petrol). In scooter I cut travel time by half compared to 4 wheeler.

        • Paulo says:

          This 65 year old has 3 MC. Getting too dangerous, methinks. Main ride is now a Honda CB 500. Coincidentally, lots of Brits own them for London commutes….40 minutes or more each way, year round. Crazy. My truck is really comfortable and safe. :-)

          Norton Commando has a nice ring to it. Awesome machine.

        • NBay says:

          Was that the same JAWA 250 twin with weird common combustion chamber set-up that could backfire on start up and run backwards? Was funny as hell when someone tried to burn out. Had a friend with one of those in the 60’s. Think Sears sold them back then.

        • NBay says:

          Dunstall Norton was even better….for the times. Bet nobody here knows what a Mustang (sort of a bike) was. LA thing.

        • NBay says:

          Check that…maybe was thinking of a 250 Puch…owned and been around a lot of bikes…old memories all running together at the moment….senior moment.

        • NBay says:

          Brit bikes were all oil drippers and (like cars) with infamous Lucas electricals…..the Prince of Darkness.
          Mechanic buddy said it was because Brits were a nation of tinkerers, loved spending all day in garage, with Whitworth spanners.

      • IwasGnarth says:

        Quite. My first Yamaha (a YAS-1) came, the UK dealer said, with a small, fake plastic oil slick I could roll out under the bike if I was feeling nostalgic. On the other hand, I really did miss the ‘blueing’ of the exhaust pipes.

    • Whatsthepoint says:

      Yes, a friend and I took one in 1985. It was wild especially in heavy weather! A week later one of them hit a breakwater and flipped, or something – i really can’t recall- but it wasn’t as reliable as the train. ?

    • tolkapiam says:

      Talking about Hovecraft wild ride : I used to live (home) in Discovery bay Expat colony at Lantau Island (Hong Kong) long before the construction of the new airport, bridge ,hand over to china in 1997 . Only mode of transport to CENTRAL (work) is by 30 minute fast ferry ride .Ferries used to ply every 20–30minutes . Occassionally at late night or less busy hours instead of fast big catamaran style ferries, smaller hovercrafts service will run (50-75 passengers). mostly wild ride .

      • NBay says:

        Pt. Hardy to Sointula ferry could be pretty scary in bad weather.
        Not really one of BC’s biggest.

    • Ross says:

      Yes, I rode that hovercraft from Folkstone to Calais, met a girl on it and we put a big dent in a bottle of Remy before getting on the train to Paris. The french really disapproved of that behavior, but it was fun.

  11. raxadian says:

    Any chance the UK government will just let it die? Is not a UK company.

  12. YuShan says:

    Of course they will get bailed out, but they will come out with massive debt. That means annual 10%+ rail fare rises for years to come.

    Welcome to the new era of stagflation :(

  13. MiTurn says:

    “The UK government already sold its 40% stake…to…Canada’s second largest pension fund.”

    Are pension funds as an ‘investment’ an archaic business proposal? Anymore, they seem to be simply a liability to the government holding the bag. Not that I have a solution, otherwise.

    Great article Nick, as usual.

    • Kenny Logins says:

      The solution should be personal self invested pension pots.

      Remove the ability to be an apathetic investor, and you’d solve many of the economic crimes/abuses and environmental rape of the world in one go.

      Regulate it all to stop fee abuse and obfuscation.

      Ah to live in a world without mass apathy to the financial vampires.

      • char says:

        People who decide those investment decisions are paid big bucks and it is their full time job. I doubt that people who would need to do it as side job next to their job in an Amazon warehouse would be less apathetic. Personal self invested pension pots sounds like a great idea (especial on a web site like this for people who are interested in the economy) but is in practice a really bad idea in which the average man will be fleeced out of his pension. It also leads to bigger booms and busts in investments

  14. Jagor says:

    The opening paragraphs of your article betray your “British-centerdness,” as if the Eurostar only runs one way–from London to cities on the Continent.

    First, I must inform you that the Eurostar utilizes French technology, not British: the trains are essentially modified French TGV sets.

    Furthermore, the Eurostar actually runs FROM Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and numerous other cities in France, Belgium and the Netherlands as far away as Marseille and Bourg-St.-Maurice TO London! How about that!

    Finally, Eurostar is not even a British company: it’s 55% owned by the French Railroads-SNCF, 40% by investment firms and 5% by the National Railroads of Belgium. I could go on, but I expect you get my point.

    • Wolf Richter says:


      Sheesh. Oh lordy.


      If you don’t read the article, fine, you can still post, but don’t say anything about the article because you’re clueless about what’s in it.

    • Javert Chip says:


      Assuming your rant is 100% accurate (it isn’t, but that’s a pissing match for another day), why are the French going to the UK government (which doesn’t even have an ownership interest), begging for a UK bailout?

      • sunny129 says:


      • char says:

        Eurostar main business is channel tunnel traffic. And it is asking for a part of the bail out, not the complete sum. beside the airlines got money too

        • Javert Chip says:

          Unlike airlines, EuroStar is a French vanity project. Over 90% of its routes are in France. Of 18 stations served, only 1 is in the UK (couple others are in Brussels & Netherlands). If the French want it bad enough, they need to suck it up and pay for it.

          France knows damn well the Brits have no ownership interest; further, nobody believes the squirrelly academics who come up with the 1B pound tourist loss. London won’t lose a single pound of tourist business. Worst case, a couple unfortunate UK EuroStar employees have to find new jobs.

          The UK taxpayer has every right to get a little cranky about being taxed to bail out a Canadian (Quebec) and French company for which Britain gets negligible marginal benefits.

          Even before William the Conquer, pretty much everybody (except Napoleon and Hitler) figured out how to get to London without a train.

      • Jagor says:

        I always research everything before posting on internet forums such as this. Please specify what is inaccurate in my post. Thank you.

    • AndyS says:

      >First, I must inform you that the Eurostar utilizes French technology, not British: the trains are essentially modified French TGV sets.

      Nope! They’re Siemens Velaros similar to DB’s ICE-4.

      >as far away as Marseille and Bourg-St.-Maurice TO London! How about that!

      How many of those pax are just travelling in France and how many are sitting for six or seven hours all the way to London When they could just get there in an hour on a plane.

  15. Yancey Ward says:

    Hilarious that the Brits sold their share to a pension firm, and what amounts to a French one at that!

  16. What’s going on in the City of London? Post Brexit? Did any of the big financials bail?

  17. Anthony says:

    I’ve not been on the Eurostar which a people carrier but I have done Euro Tunnel many times. Euro tunnel carries cars and Trucks, so I use it when I drive to France, as I have a dog and it is much easier……

    It’s also the reason why England is almost impossible to lockdown whatever you do. Why?……because between five and ten thousand lorries a day come through Dover and through the tunnel with, of course, 10,000 truck drivers or so, who then drive all over our island. Try stopping the virus when that happens…. lol

  18. SpencerG says:

    I get that the managers of Eurostar are asking for a government bailout. If I saw all of the airlines getting free government money (rather than diluting their shareholders by going back to the markets OR declaring bankruptcy) then I would ask for the same.

    But I doubt there is much to be very gloomy about here. If they run out of cash in April, the markets will be begging to throw money at Eurostar. Not only will half of England and Europe be immunized by then, but the light season of influenza and COVID will be starting. To say nothing of the kinks from BREXIT being worked out by then. All of which should restore passenger numbers to close to normal numbers.

    • Javert Chip says:


      The article states EuroStar has already gone to shareholders for an additional 200M euros

      • SpencerG says:

        Yeah… I saw that. The article doesn’t say when that was but apparently EuroStar management doesn’t want to go back to the equity markets for more. Not if they don’t have to at least.

        Again… I get it. Government money (grants and/or loans) usually comes pretty cheap with long payback periods. Better to hold off on equity dilution until you know for sure that you will need to do so.

        • Javert Chip says:

          We disagree.

          Government grants come at the expense of the UK taxpayer; stock dilution comes at the expense of the shareholder.

          Stock dilution is simply one of many investment risks.

          As an ex-CFO, I find it amusing to read an argument for a government bailout of the rich (aka: shareholders), as opposed to share dilution or a potential bankruptcy that would quickly turn the assets over to another operator.

          Maybe they should have a bake sale…

  19. drg1234 says:

    Lol. Someone seriously named their kid ‘Libor’.


  20. Xavier Caveat says:

    I took the ferry a number of times to & from Dover to Ostend a bunch back in the 80’s, and I see it is still viable and operating as a back up in case Eurostar goes tits up financially. It was a full day going from London to Brussels.

    • Willy2 says:

      – I Always took the night boat from Ostend to Dover the few times I crossed the Channel. No need to waste a day when traveling at night. But I no longer live in Europe.

  21. Engin-ear says:

    I’d like to know how much cash Eurostar is burning per month and how much do they expect to obtain from the much desired White Knight.

    • Javert Chip says:

      Considering EuroStar service area is 90% in France (serves only 1 station in UK, plus a couple in Brussels & Netherlands), and has no UK ownership (public or private), I’d like to know how the French consider the Brits to be the white knight.

  22. Tony22 says:

    Nationalize it and make the British half part of a newly nationalized British Rail.

    Bailouts equal ownership. No assets, no income, no value? No bailout.

  23. sunny129 says:

    Everytime I read the sob story on the sub sectors of Tourist/Hospitality industry, I am constantly reminded of an article (book?) pointing the share (50%?) of ‘frills’ in the global economy.

    Covid 19 brought this ugly fact to the front forcing the divide between the essentials and those that are not.

    As the Daily Telegraph put it even more bluntly: “The Channel Tunnel is not going anywhere. It is the operating company that runs the train services between Paris and London that is in trouble[..]. If it goes bust, another operator will step in.”

    Well said!

    • 8_mile_road says:

      Isn’t the best example of “socialism at the top, and capitalism at the bottom?”

      In a real capitalism world, bailout doesn’t exist. If you can’t make your business profitable, you should trim down the business size. If you are running out of cash, maybe you should go bankrupt. Indeed, bankruptcy is NOT a bad thing for the whole economy. Quoting from the Daily Telegraph: “If it goes bust, another operator will step in.”

      I haven’t heard a single economist advocate bankruptcy for poor operated enterprise. Name one for me please.

      • sunny129 says:

        Reply to 8_mile_road

        Wonder, why 20+% of S&P companies are zombie supported by Fed?

        50% of rise in S&P in the last two years came on 2 years worth NEGATIVE earnings!?. Last year S&P earnings was NEGATIVE 14%!
        Price discovery is NOT allowed. So is the bankruptcy not allowed!
        So called ‘capitalism’ is on it’s head!

        h/t northman trader

    • Engin-ear says:

      From what I understood, the tunnel itself is owned by Groupe Eurotunnel SE.

      Eurostar is one of operators using the tunnel (and logically paying fees to the Eurotunnel).

      So indeed, the tunnel is immune to Eurostar difficulties to some extent.

    • char says:

      The problem is more that the new operator could be AirFrance-KLM whose home airports are on the highspeed lines connected to London. Using the chunnel as feeder would not be good for Heathrow or BA

  24. Ian says:

    There are thousands of small businesses up and down the length of the uk in critical condition or beyond. They also fit the same bill of excuses that ‘it is no fault of theirs’ and they will collectively contribute more than any ‘1 billion pounds to the economy’. Why should this rail service, owned by others get a uk bailout when the small businesses are left to whistle?

  25. BRETT says:

    I was in Tokyo from mid-January to March 6 and there were only 16,500 infections in the country and only 17 deaths. Japan has a population of 126 million. There was no social distancing, nothing closed and they all wore masks.

    So I have no idea what happened since March 6th vs what Wolf wrote above? Seems very strange.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      There is nothing “strange” about it. That’s how a contagious virus operates. The issues with Covid surging in Japan started in the fall last year, but the government didn’t want to slow down the HUGE New Year’s business. For months, trains were packed, offices were packed, people went to restaurants after work and took off their masks…

      Wearing masks whenever possible helped Japan dodge an early catastrophe, but it wasn’t enough. You also need social distancing, and that didn’t happen enough.

    • Anthony A. says:

      According to today’s data on Japan, they are recording about 6,000 new CV19 cases per day on a 7 day moving average. That is off the charts, so to say.

      • sunny129 says:

        How much of these stats are reliable or accurate? Even hospitalizations/death rate are far from perfect. See my comments below.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Anthony A.,

        But Japan is NOT TESTING. Don’t test, don’t tell. They have no idea how many infections they have:

        Japan: 50,513 tests per 1 million population

        USA: 900,568 tests per 1 million population

        Denmark: 2,190,374 tests per 1 million population

  26. lisa2020 says:

    If no one gets hysterical, just stay locked-in quietly at home. Make sure you have all the basics. Accept the war zone reality. Watch the Top Corporate leadership run around losing at cleaning everything up! Just don’t lift a finger to help them. Of course, make sure you have TP, water, and food supplies, and hopefully some sewers still work, pack your own trash on foot. Boycotts work both ways. Just make this one work effectively rather than the way it was pre-planned. Make sure you have reading materials, can get by without electricity, and barter keeping the prices escalating for your labor. Get creative using real musical instruments and charge high prices for anyone not in your immediate neighborhood. In fact. lock those unwanted corporate types out, and down.

    • Nancy says:

      Woman after our own hearts!

      Make a list of everything you use during a normal day. Besides t.p. how about soap? Dishwashing liquid, detergent? razor blades? garbage bags? Freezers were backordered six months. Is your fridge in good shape? Your car?

      Do you have enough of those daily things to last you a couple years? Except fresh food, of course-learn how to grow your own vegetables. Thousands of videos on you tube. Forget planting fruit trees, they won’t bear until Harris is gone and Biden forgets who he is.

      You can keep your money in the bank for an emergency, or fill your larder. You’ll save money as everything will be more expensive, if you can even find it later.

    • fajensen says:

      You also need a stash of some high-protein, high-energy food, about 2000 kcals/day for 10-15 days worth.

      For when you get COVID-19 anyway and can’t eat because all food becomes really disgusting, but, if you don’t eat your body shuts off and won’t fight the virus at full capacity. Just like the virus would like to have it.

      Lots of paracetamol and ibuprofen – to stack 1:1 (within daily limits) because after eating the body fires up and one’s fever goes high as well as feeling exceptionally shitty for hours after. The painkillers take the edges off it.

      A pulse-oximeter to measure how fucked up ones lungs are getting or to relieve the paranoia when one can’t breathe properly is also useful.

      *) If it’s more that 10-15 days the risk of going to the ICU goes up.

  27. Cashboy says:

    Euro star is only the passenger services from St Pancreas to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam.
    It is not the Channel Tunnel, it is not the freight trains, it is not the roll on roll off vehicles and lorry service between Folkstone and Calais.

    Eurostar is operated by eleven Class 373/1 trainsets with 18 coaches and seventeen Class 374 trainsets with 16 coaches which it leases.

    It does not own the stations or anything.
    It is basically merely a service company.

    I would think the service will never reach more than 50% of passengers before the pandemic for another three years at least if it only has 10% of passengers now.

    If I was the UK government, I would not assist Euro Star financially and let it go bankrupt.

  28. Hotairmail says:

    All equity holders need to be wiped out first before consideration of public funds. And when public funds are eventually committed, it is on the strict understanding that it is a temporary holding until they can divest when things right themselves. Like nationalising the banks when they faced crisis.

  29. VintageVNvet says:

    Very good summary IMHO s12,,, thanks.
    Been having some local discussions and looking for answers re reliability of covid reporting, and basically none that approach any level of validity that was normal in science when I was studying it back a half century.
    Many countries and even states in USA appear to be using different criteria would be the good news, but I believe, based on various reports, that some places are deliberately going higher due to payments from federal guv mint being based on positives, etc., etc.

  30. Aldermaston says:

    Perhaps a follow up article on the restrictions placed over the years on UK ownership of other EU member state ‘protected’ strategic assets? Now coming into focus post-Brexit – shifting as much as possible of the City of London’s Finance expertise to Frankfurt and Paris.

    As often remarked there is no way the French in particular would let us British having a controlling share ownership of anything more substantial than a zebra crossing. But so many in the EU – the Germans, French and even Spanish in particular – have long had their teeth into so much of the UK’s commerce that in their countries are strategic sectors!!!

    Most bizarre, given current stress over Gibraltar, is the Spanish owning the GPSS (Government Pipeline and Storage System) that feeds our military airfields. If nothing else allowing the Spanish to get a heads-up should the RAF plan on bombing Madrid.

  31. sunny129 says:

    My comments on the UNRELIABILITY of stats on Covid19, yesterday has been removed!
    Thanks a lot!

    • Wolf Richter says:

      People try to post all kinds of Covid stuff here that they have run into out there in the wild yonder of the internet, from medial theories to god knows what. This stuff doesn’t belong here, and I’m cracking down.

      • suny129 says:

        I understand your point. I am a retired MD with 3 board certifications. I would be gladly post the medical literature links verifying my postings on a medical issue. But links are frowned here! Apparently there were postings on this very issue more ‘suspect/speculate’ than what I posted. But again, you are the boss-moderator here. thank you.

  32. You got this completely backwards, author.

    The banks should stop collecting interest on loans during this period. T

    hey are the richest institutions in the world and they are the ONLY ones who didn’t have to make any sacrifices.

    They are legal counterfeit operations. They should have to shoulder more of the burden than working stiffs. Paying back the bank should be the absolute lowest priority.

  33. LionelMandrake says:

    Don’t worry. China will be happy to step in and save the rail system.

Comments are closed.