Release Date: 24 August 2006
Release ID: 731
The Freight Transport Association says that the Government should help to satisfy the pent-up demand for cross-Channel rail freight by supporting the call for Eurotunnel, the UK Government and the European Commission to reduce the cost of using the Channel Tunnel for international freight services. FTA is convinced that there is substantial freight business which would transfer to rail if the price and the quality of service could be improved. Such a transfer would improve capacity use of the tunnel facility and replace considerable cross-Channel road freight, three quarters of which is undertaken by continental hauliers.
Freight charges of around £26 million per year have been met by the Government since the tunnel opened in 1994. Payment of these charges will end this November. At the same time Eurotunnel is seeking a financial arrangement for the management of their £6.4 billion debts.
FTA Head of Rail Freight Dr Andrew Traill said, ‘It would be a total farce if rail freight was removed from the Channel Tunnel – the carriage of rail freight was one of the key reasons why the Channel Tunnel was built in the first place! I have no doubt whatever that there are many companies which would be very interested in expanding their use of rail freight services through the Channel Tunnel if the price was right and the service package efficient. And it is important to attempt to reduce the number of foreign lorries now operating on UK roads, estimated to be one in seven of the maximum weight vehicles.
‘In parallel, the management of the high speed Channel Tunnel Rail Link has still not issued its network statement outlining charges for freight users. FTA has been concerned that CTRL management does not want freight on the line and that freight is to be deterred from using the CTRL through high access charges.
‘Even at a cheaper price it must be in the interests of Eurotunnel and the UK Government to generate much more freight traffic than at present, creating some welcome revenue as opposed to the prospect they are presently faced with of zero income and an even greater unused facility after November.
‘As the representative organisation for companies which consign over 90 per cent of the freight carried by rail in the UK, FTA calls for every assistance to be given to Eurotunnel and the CTRL management to offer freight access at a competitive price that really will stand a good chance of actually attracting new business.
‘It is only by innovative and market sensitive product offers that use of the Channel Tunnel can be applied to the maximum benefit of the operator and of users, and the writing off of the annual £26 million charge is a drop in the ocean compared with the overall debt. In any event a cut in freight prices and the resultant increase in business is likely to cover that loss very quickly.’
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