Sunday 25th Sep 2016 - Logistics Manager

Eurotunnel overcharging for rail freight, says Commission

The European Commission has told the British and French governments to stop “excessive track access charges for passenger and freight trains in the Channel Tunnel”.
 
Commission vice-president Siim Kallas said: “The Channel Tunnel is not being used to its full capacity because of these excessive charges. As a result, more freight is being carried on lorries instead of by rail, freight operators and their customers are being over-charged, and passenger are paying over-the-odds for their tickets. The current regime is also stifling growth in the rail sector.”
 
It argues that the two governments are failing to comply with key provisions the 2001 First Railway Package (Directives 91/440/EEC and 2001/14/EC, now replaced by the Rail Recast ) with respect to the Channel tunnel fixed link.
 
As well as high charges, the commission complains that only six freight trains a day use the tunnel – far below capacity. In total, 43 per cent of tunnel capacity is unused.
 
Rail freight traffic has been declining. Only 2,325 freight trains passed through the tunnel in 2012 – down from 2,388 in 2011 and 2,718 in 2008.
 
It also points out that there is only one passenger operator despite the fact that the international rail passenger market opened up three years ago.
 
The commission’s action has been welcomed by both the Freight Transport Association and the Rail Freight Group.
 
Chris Welsh, FTA general manager of global & European policy, said: “FTA now calls upon the governments to change the existing arrangements, to promote the use of rail freight through the Channel tunnel, which would help meet the Commission’s objectives of moving freight off roads and on to rail.”
 
And RFG chairman Tony Berkeley also called on the two government to do all they can to remove other barriers to service growth, “in particular new charges imposed by French government owned operator SNCF or RFF for ‘security’ checks and ensure that all operators get fair and equal access to the network in France”.
 
Eurotunnel pointed out that the commission’s action was aimed at the two member states – not at the company.
 
And it warned that if modifications were to be made to the Concession “which were unfavourable to the interests of the 300,000 small shareholders in Groupe Eurotunnel SA, the group would seek a legitimate indemnity from the states, based upon the period up to 2086, the term of the Concession”.
 
France and the United Kingdom now have two months to respond to the “reasoned opinion”. If they fail to do so, the Commission may bring both cases to the EU Court of Justice.