By Jonathan Davies
The government is set to sell its 40% in Eurostar today (Monday).
It is hoping to raise around £300m from the sale as part of the wider plans to sell-off government assets to pay of public debt.
According to the plans outlined in the Autumn Statement by the Chancellor George Osborne, the government is hoping to raise £20bn from selling its assets.
Chancellor George Osborne said on Monday: "I am determined that we go on making the decisions to reform the British economy and tackle our debts. So we will proceed with the potential sale of the UK's shareholding in Eurostar today.
"Ensuring that we can deliver the best quality infrastructure for Britain and the best value for money for the taxpayer are key parts of our long-term economic plan.
"As part of our aim to achieve £20bn from assets sales by 2020, the sale proceeds would make an important contribution to the task of reducing the public sector debt."
But the government's decision to sell its Eurostar stake has been criticised by the Rail, Maritime & Transport (RMT) union and Labour Party.
Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, said: "This compounds the issue of foreign ownership of Britain's railways as the French state has first refusal on our slice of the highly profitable Eurostar cake. The French and Belgians think we are insane knocking off such a valuable and strategic infrastructure asset."
Mary Creagh MP, Labour's shadow transport secretary, said: "The National Audit Office should urgently conduct a value-for-money enquiry before this sale proceeds.
"We must ensure that taxpayers are not ripped off again by bungling ministers and poor financial advice from the City."
Any companies interested in purchasing the stake have until the end of October to register interest with the government. "Definitive agreements" are expected to be made in the first quarter of 2015, the government said.
Eurostar is currently owned by the British government (40%), French national rail company SNCF (55%) and Belgian national rail company SNCB (5%).
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