The European Commission on Tuesday approved the merger of train companies Eurostar and Thalys, clearing the way for the creation of a cross-border rail operator serving five countries.
The combination of the two brands, both controlled by French state railway SNCF, forms a passenger rail company that will connect up the U.K., France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. The new company, to be called Eurostar, will be headquartered in Brussels.
The merger plan was first announced in September 2019 before the pandemic slashed ticket sales, almost forcing Eurostar out of business. Back then, SNCF estimated that combining Eurostar and Thalys would boost passenger numbers from 18.5 million annually to 30 million by 2030.
The EU competition watchdog said it approved the deal “given its very limited impact on the structure of the market.”
Expanding rail travel is part of the EU’s broader goal of curbing emissions from transport.
At present, there are no competitors to Eurostar operating through the Channel Tunnel linking London with Calais. In the broader region, rail operators offer only limited cross-border services due to problems running carriages on different national networks.