Home U.K Eurotunnel's letter to PM backed plan for new post-Brexit bridge between UK...

Eurotunnel's letter to PM backed plan for new post-Brexit bridge between UK and France


Today, Eurostar confirmed it has secured a financial support package that will pave the way for its recovery. The £250million refinancing package largely consists of additional equity and loans from a syndicate of banks guaranteed by the shareholders, including the French state railway group SNCF, Patina Rail LLP, the Belgian state train operator SNCB, and funds managed by the infrastructure team of Federated Hermes. The support will enable Eurostar to continue to operate and meet its financial obligations in the short-to-medium term.

Passenger numbers on the cross-Channel train service – which reaches the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands – have dropped to just one percent of pre-pandemic levels, prompting fears for the future of the transport provider.

Eurostar appealed to the UK Government for financial support in January after the pandemic left the company “fighting for survival”.

It was not that long ago that cross-channel traffic was so high, Britain actually looked at building new links.

In 2017, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was then serving as Foreign Secretary under Theresa May, suggested building a 22-mile road crossing between the UK and France after Brexit.

Mr Johnson believed the bridge would have boosted Britain’s tourism industry.

He wrote on Twitter: “Our economic success depends on good infrastructure and good connections.

“Should the Channel Tunnel be just a first step?”

He then floated the idea during a UK-France summit at Sandhurst military academy.

Mr Johnson said: “We need a new fixed link between the UK and France.

“It’s crazy that two of the biggest economies in the world are connected by one railway line when they are only 20 miles apart.”

Mr Macron reportedly liked the idea and he is said to have replied: “I agree.

“Let’s do it.”

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Mr Johnson’s plan also received a major boost after Eurotunnel bosses requested a meeting with British officials about a second crossing between the UK and Europe.

In a letter to former Prime Minister Theresa May, the French Chief Executive of Eurotunnel said he was “very interested” in a second fixed link and would have been “delighted” to start discussions.

The note from Eurotunnel Chief Executive Jacques Gounon read: “The idea of a second fixed link is something that we regularly consider in our long term plans and we would be delighted to engage with your officials to explore the possibility further.”

A source at the company told The Telegraph demand was rising and a second connection would have been required.

They also confirmed the letter had been sent right after Mr Johnson’s remarks about building a bridge.

The company said it was “fully engaged” to “deliver the best possible solutions for industry and consumers in the post-Brexit relationship”, adding that “exploratory work could be worthwhile now”.

The letter added: “The acknowledgement of such potential is a strong indicator of confidence in the future of the economy.”

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Winston Churchill’s grandson, Tory backbencher Nicholas Soames, also backed Mr Johnson’s proposal at the time, and said: “It’s an absolutely excellent idea.”

Bridge designer Ian Firth, a past president of the Institution of Structural Engineers, said a bridge over the Channel – possibly with a stretch of tunnel in the middle to avoid having an impact on one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world – was not as far-fetched as it may have seemed.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is entirely feasible. Before the Tunnel was built there were bridge options being looked at.

“There are bridges of a similar – if not quite the same – scale elsewhere. Of course this would not be one big span – the economics may lean towards something like 800m-1km spans.

“It would be a huge undertaking, but it would be absolutely possible, and shipping impact issues could be dealt with.”

Despite the enthusiasm, Mrs May’s official spokesman repeatedly declined to offer support for the idea.

France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, also appeared to be lukewarm about the concept of a bridge.

He told Europe 1 radio: “All ideas merit consideration, even the most far-fetched ones.

“We have major European infrastructure projects that are complicated to finance. Let’s finish things that are already under way before thinking of new ones.”


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