SNCF to manage cross-channel operator
The European Commission has approved the takeover of Eurostar by French rail operator SNCF.
The British Government agreed in March to sell its 40% stake in the operator to a consortium of Canadian and British investors. SNCF owns 55% and Belgian Railways (SNCB) the remaining 5%. A shareholders’ agreement will now see SNCF take sole managerial control of Eurostar, although the EC has stipulated a number of conditions to ensure that the entry of competitors on the cross-channel market is not hindered.
In a statement, the EC said: ‘The Commission’s decision is conditional on compliance with commitments designed to facilitate the entry of new rail operators onto the London-Brussels and London-Paris routes, on which Eurostar is currently the only operator.’ The commission was concerned that the original deal would have ‘[perpetuated] Eurostar’s dominant position on these markets’.
The commitments made will ensure that any new entrant to the market will have ‘fair and non-discriminatory access’ to ticket offices, passenger information services and cross-channel areas in stations managed by SNCF and SNCB as well as to maintenance centres managed by Eurostar, SNCF or SNCB. The deal also seeks to ensure that a new operator would have access to train paths currently used by Eurostar at peak times, should it ‘not be able to obtain such access through the usual procedure for path allocation by the infrastructure managers’.
The Commission said it ‘takes the view that the commitments offered reduce the barriers to entry for new operators’ on the cross-channel routes, and says the decision to approve the takeover ‘is conditional upon full compliance with the commitments’.