EU approves 'New Eurostar' SNCF-LCR joint venture
The EU's competition watchdog on Friday approved the proposed creation of a "New Eurostar" joint venture by the French railway operator SNCF and London Continental Railways (LCR).
The EU Commission said that in order to receive the definitive green light the two companies had committed to allow other train operators to use the London-Brussels and London-Paris routes.
Eurostar is currently the sole provider of passenger rail services between London and Paris and London and Brussels, through the Channel tunnel. It is run by a cooperation between SNCF, EUKL (a subsidiary of LCR) and the Belgian national railways SNCB.
Each railway company owns its assets and has responsibility for the operation of the service on its respective national territory.
In the proposed tie-up "New Eurostar" will become a stand-alone independent joint venture, controlled by SNCF and LCR, operating the Eurostar service throughout France, Britain and Belgium.
SNCB will hold a non-controlling stake in the joint venture.
The EU Commission concluded, after investigation, that the transaction, as modified by the required commitments, "would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area or any substantial part of it."
The changes were deemed necessary as it was feared the original joint venture scheme might make it more difficult for competitors to enter the market to provide services along the two cross-channel routes, thereby perpetuating Eurostar's dominant position.
To address the commission's concerns, SNCF, LCR and SNCB promised to allocate slots for competitors along the routes, though not free of charge to ensure "an effective access for new entrants to international station services."
Such services could also include running ticket counters and passenger information at the terminals at Paris Nord, London St Pancras, Brussels Midi and intermediate stops.
© 2010 AFP