To ask Her Majesty's Government following their announcement that Eurostar UK will become a minority government-owned shareholder in a wider Eurostar company with a majority holding by SNCF, what steps they are taking to ensure competition for high speed passenger services on routes currently served by Eurostar. [HL4992]
The Government are taking steps to encourage competition on High Speed 1 from 2010 and to expand the number of European destinations available by rail from the UK. This was one of the principal objectives behind the recent financial restructuring of London and Continental Railways which the European Commission said would “benefit competition and users in view of the forthcoming liberalisation of international passenger transport by rail in 2010”.
Following this financial restructuring, it is the Government's intention, in due course, to sell a long-term concession for High Speed 1. This will incentivise and maximise usage of the line, and encourage the concessionaire to help train operators develop new international services. It will be for the future operator of High Speed 1 to market the railway and to agree terms of access with international train operators. We understand that High Speed 1 has had some preliminary discussions with potential operators.
The Government’s interest in Eurostar is aimed at ensuring that Eurostar can continue to offer attractive service to passengers whilst also being able to compete with expected new train operators on a level playing field in the future. This was also recognised by the Commission in its approval of this support.
High Speed 1 is not the only infrastructure to be used by cross-Channel high-speed trains. The Government maintain their support for the European Commission in promoting policies that ensure the regulatory arrangements and charging structures of the other infrastructure operators do not act as a barrier to competition on Eurostar routes.