The train to Spain is better than the plane. Or it will be if a major Channel Tunnel shake-up goes ahead.
According to Spanish newspaper El Pais, talks are underway to give the Spanish national train operator Renfe access to the Chunnel (remember when it was called that? Let’s bring it back!) and run its trains on the London to Paris line.
In what would be a huge shakeup at St Pancras, Renfe is reported by the Financial Times as believing that a Eurostar challenger would be “viable and profitable” and it already has support from the tunnel’s operator, Getlink, as well as HS1, big brother to its more controversial sibling HS2, and the company that operates the line from St Pancras to the tunnel.
A Eurostar challenger would be “viable and profitable”...
According to Renfe “Until Covid-19, this high-speed corridor had high traffic and was growing, a trend that is expected to recover next year. According to the demand analysis carried out, it would be viable and profitable for Renfe to compete with Eurostar”.
But such a move is unlikely to go down well in Paris. David Cameron sold the British stake in Eurostar for £750m back in 2014, leaving the company in control of the French state operator SNCF, and though the company does not have a monopoly over the line, the process of hoop-jumping will be tricky.
Germany state-owned operator Deutsche Bahn had also planned to run trains to Frankfurt, but the plan fell flat, so it’s not a given that the Spanish scheme will fare any better.
Cheaper travel to Paris, not to mention the possibility of direct services to Madrid or Barcelona seems like a no-brainer...
But it’s still a threat to Eurostar. The company’s unrivalled position has allowed it to focus on beating the low cost airlines and pre-pandemic it was profitable. But adding in a competitor operating the same service will surely lead to further price slashing and competition which will hit the company’s bottom line (it was already bailed out to the tune of £250m by shareholders during the pandemic (the British government refused to partake, saying it was a French problem)).
Which is, at least, great for us. Cheaper travel to Paris, not to mention the possibility of direct services to Madrid or Barcelona seems like a no-brainer.