The European Commission has approved the planned merger involving the acquisition of sole control of Eurostar by the French rail operator SNCF MOBILITES. The Commission’s decision is conditional on compliance with commitments designed to facilitate the entry of new rail operators onto the London‑Brussels and London‑Paris routes, on which Eurostar is currently the only operator. The Commission was concerned that the deal as originally notified might hinder the entry of competitors into these markets. The serious doubts identified relating to access to stations in France and Belgium and to maintenance centres in France, Belgium and the UK are the same as those raised when Eurostar was set up in 2010. This situation could have had the result of limiting the choice of services available to passengers.
SNCF MOBILITES and SNCB offered commitments designed to ensure that any new entrant would have fair and non‑discriminatory access to:
(i) standard and cross‑Channel areas and services, such as ticket offices, passenger information services and cross‑Channel areas in stations in France and Belgium currently managed by SNCF and SNCB;
(ii) maintenance centres in France, the UK and Belgium currently managed by SNCF, Eurostar and SNCB for services such as overnight storage, servicing and cleaning of trains and light maintenance;
(iii) train paths currently used by Eurostar at peak times, should a new entrant not be able to obtain such access through the usual procedure for path allocation by the infrastructure managers.
Since it was set up in 2010, Eurostar has been jointly controlled by SNCF and the UK Government. SNCB holds a minority share. On 4 March 2015 the UK Government announced that it had agreed to sell its stake in Eurostar to a private company. Under the deal in question here, SNCF has negotiated a new shareholder agreement giving it sole control of Eurostar.