Cross-Channel rail operator Eurotunnel has bought GB Railfreight, the UK’s third largest rail freight operator, prompting a call from the Rail Freight Group for cuts in the cost of moving international rail freight between the UK and France.
The £31m deal will further expand Eurotunnel’s freight operations. It recently bought the French assets of Veolia Cargo to expand its rail freight subsidiary, Europorte SAS.
The move will bring Eurotunnel into competition with one of its major customers, DB Schenker, the UK’s largest rail freight operator. DB Schenker says it is currently the largest freight customer for the channel tunnel.
GBRf is a profitable business with sales of £56 million last year. The company is present in all rail freight markets: intermodal, bulk, infrastructure. Customers include Bombardier, British Gypsum, EDF Energy and DRAX.
Jacques Gounon, chairman and chief executive of Eurotunnel, said: “Growing concerns about the environment and the increasing need for freight transport over both long and short distances mean that rail freight is a buoyant market”.
And François Coart, strategy director, Europorte and project leader of the acquisition; said: “GBRF shares with Europorte and Eurotunnel the same quality customer and safety focus. This deal complements ideally our recent acquisition of the French assets of Veolia Cargo.”
However, there has been concern for some time that the high cost of access has been driving freight traffic away from the tunnel, and the Rail Freight Group said it was vital that “this move be used as an opportunity to decrease the cost of moving international rail freight between the UK and France”.
Policy manager Maggie Simpson said: “We welcome Europorte 2’s entry into the UK rail freight market, which provides another competitive choice of rail freight operator for customers.
“No doubt there will be concerns from our members over the fair implementation of tunnel access charges and it will now be up to Eurotunnel to provide complete transparency to all its freight users,” she said.