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‘If Eurostar fails, HS1 will also fail’: The case for government support for high speed rail

A perfect storm brewing over the Channel is posing a real threat to the most environmentally friendly way to travel to mainland Europe.

A dramatic fall in Eurostar passenger numbers resulting from Covid-19 restrictions, alongside a looming Brexit deadline, is threatening the very existence of international train travel from the UK. With less than a year to go before the UK hosts the COP26 environmental summit, the green gateway to Europe is in a fight for its survival.

For over 25 years, Eurostar has provided a unique link between the UK and mainland Europe for leisure and business travellers. Tourists arriving via High Speed 1 (HS1) pump £2bn into the UK economy each year and support the equivalent of 3,600 full-time jobs in the tourism industry, while businesses travelling by train contribute around £130 million to the UK economy.

With a 95 per cent fall in traffic since March this year and the timetable now reduced to just two daily return services, there is a risk that this iconic service will be left to fail, threatening jobs, connectivity and reversing the progress to reduce travel emissions. We are now at the point where we believe urgent government intervention is essential to help our businesses and safeguard the high-speed rail connection to Europe.  

The case for government support is powerful.

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As the UK moves into a new post Brexit trading system, international high-speed rail will become even more crucial in driving connectivity with Europe but we need to work together with the government to save and sustain it from the most significant challenge it has ever faced.

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