A warning that Eurostar is “fighting for its survival” came as the high speed Channel Tunnel rail operator called for more government financial support.

The cross-Channel passenger rail firm claimed that it was being treated unfairly after the aviation sector was given extra assistance in the Covid-19 crisis.

The plea followed state aid announced for airports in England on Tuesday in the form of £8 million of business rates liabilities relief.

Eurostar said: “The new scheme of rates relief for airports puts Eurostar at a direct disadvantage against its airline competitors.

“Eurostar has been left fighting for its survival against a 95% drop in demand, while aviation has received over £1.8 billion in support through loans, tax deferrals and financing.

“We would ask this scheme to be extended to include international rail services and more generally for the government to incorporate high-speed rail in its support for the travel sector.”

Eurostar, controlled by French state railway SNCF, is due to be merged next year with Thalys, an SNCF business that runs high-speed trains between France and Belgium.

Eurostar is running only one train in each direction between London and Paris and between London and Amsterdam via Brussels, compared with more than 50 daily services before the pandemic struck.

The company has also suspended trains to the Alps, Lyon and the south of France for the “foreseeable future”.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, which represents train managers and customer service advisors at Eurostar, called for government intervention.

General secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Eurostar could not be clearer with the government, they are looking at a cliff edge and now is the time to act. Ministers must not sit on their hands.

“Our members have been at the forefront of this pandemic, making sure trains run smoothly and safely for passengers. What they need now is assurances their jobs are safe and Eurostar has a strong future.

“We have already seen the extended closure of Ashford and Ebbsfleet stations, and for months our union has been warning that help was needed.

“Eurostar simply can’t be allowed to fail. A proper support deal will see this vital green strategic link between Britain and our European neighbours through Covid crisis and put on a firm footing for the future.”

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