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France's SNCF wins EU approval to take over Eurostar

An idle high-speed Eurostar train at the Paris Gare du Nord train station Reuters/Stephane Mahe

The European Union has given conditional approval for French rail operator SNCF to take full control of cross-channel train company Eurostar, but says it must agree to share ticket offices and maintenance services with competitors.

The European Commission said the original deal would have blocked the entry of rivals on the London-Paris and London-Brussels services, "perpetuating Eurostar's dominant position on these markets."

Under the agreement, new competitors would be able to use the same train paths at peak hours.

Created in 2010, Eurostar International was jointly controlled by SNCF and the British government.

Britain announced in March that it was selling its majority stake to a private enterprise, and SNCF negotiated a package to gain exclusive control over Eurostar.