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October 13, 2014

UK expects to sell 40% stake in Eurostar for £300m

The UK Government will sell its 40% stake in the cross-Channel train operator Eurostar, in a bid to raise funds under the National Infrastructure Plan announced last year.

By Samseer M

Eurostars_waterloo

The UK Government will sell its 40% stake in the cross-Channel train operator Eurostar, in a bid to raise funds under the National Infrastructure Plan announced last year.

The government expects to raise about £300m through the sale of the high-speed rail operator that connects London to destinations in France and Belgium.

The Autumn Statement and National Infrastructure Plan announced in 2013 aims to earn around £20bn through the sale of corporate and financial assets by 2020.

Chancellor George Osborne said: "Ensuring that we can deliver the best quality infrastructure for Britain and the best value for money for the taxpayer are key parts of our long-term economic plan.

"The National Audit Office should urgently conduct a value-for-money enquiry before this sale proceeds."

"As part of our aim to achieve £20bn from assets sales by 2020, the sale proceeds would make an important contribution to the task of reducing the public sector debt."

The other two owners of Eurostar, French state-owned rail operator SNCF and Belgian state-owned SNCB hold a 55% and a 5% stake respectively.

SNCF has the first refusal option and has reportedly not shown interest in acquiring any additional ownership in the operator.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party and the RMT rail union have questioned the government’s move to sell stake in Eurostar.

Labour shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh told BBC: "The National Audit Office should urgently conduct a value-for-money enquiry before this sale proceeds."

More than five million passengers used Eurostar services in the first half, representing a rise of 2% compared with last year, while the number of international passengers increased by 7%.

Sales revenues during the first half of 2014 grew by 0.5% to £456m.


Image: Eurostar trains at Waterloo International Station. Photo: courtesy of Willkm.

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