Wed, Feb 27, 2019 - Page 7 News List

French rail boss assuages Eurostar fears over Brexit

AFP, PARIS

The head of the France’s national railway authority on Monday allayed fears that Brexit might hit or even halt Eurostar links between the country and Britain.

There would be some “details” to iron out pertaining to cross-border formalities, even if Britain does leave the EU without a deal on the March 29 deadline, SNCF president Guillaume Pepy said.

However, he said that the “fundamentals to run Eurostar are there, even if there is no deal.”

There have been fears that a no-deal Brexit might see existing licenses for UK train operators providing services in continental Europe lose their automatic validity.

However, Pepy said that he could reassure customers.

“Things are now very, very concrete so that, whatever the [exit] scenario, Eurostar will be able to travel correctly,” Pepy told reporters in Paris.

“We are well aware that the devil will be in the details, so we are working on the details,” he said, adding that some minor issues would nevertheless require attention in the coming weeks.

“And then, in concrete terms, we shall have to see how things are organized at Gare du Nord [terminus in Paris] and St Pancras [railway station in London] regarding identity and customs checks,” Pepy said.

If such controls cause delays, then train officials would need to assess “if we hold back the train a few minutes or send people on their way in the following train,” he said.

On Thursday last week, the Financial Times reported that aspects of a confidential British government report alluded to fears of a backlog of as many as 15,000 people at the St Pancras terminal, which could affect timetables.

SNCF has a 55 percent stake in Eurostar, with Quebec’s pension and insurance plans institutional investor, CDPQ, holding a further 30 percent.

British investment management firm Hermes Infrastructure has a 10 percent stake, with 5 percent held by Belgium’s railway operator.

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