Eurostar rejects Spanish threat to Channel Tunnel monopoly

The Eurostar boss dismissed the threat that Spain would run services through the Channel Tunnel, saying the bureaucracy means it will take years for a rival rail operator to get underway.

However, HS1, which owns the tracks used by Eurostar, is in talks with a group of foreign rail operators to convince them to launch competing international rail services to the UK.

Jacques Damas, a French transport veteran who saved Eurostar from collapse earlier this year, said Eurostar was “ready” for a competitor to operate services under the Channel.

“I am very happy to play the game,” he told The Telegraph. “It can’t happen tomorrow… it’s a matter of years.

“Because there is no operator other than us in France, a new operator will have to deal with at least two countries. Plus all the specificities – and the regulations are high – of the Eurotunnel route ”, he added.

Mr Damascus cited the difficulties in setting up a direct service to Amsterdam as an example of the complexity of train travel from outside the Schengen area – the area within the EU where people can travel without showing their passport at the border.

It took several years for Eurostar to start serving the Dutch city after struggling with political and diplomatic wrangling.

Renfe, the Spanish public operator, said last week that it planned to operate services to the UK through the Channel Tunnel.

The operator said it could also operate services to the UK profitably in the latest challenge to SNCF, the French public rail operator and majority owner of Eurostar. Renfe also plans to launch services in France.

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