The European Commission said that high track access charges mean rail freight companies cannot afford to send more freight through the Channel tunnel, and that the 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 passengers are paying over the odds for their tickets.
The EC decision was based in part on the findings of a report ‘The impact of Eurotunnel tolls on through rail freight’ commissioned by FTA in June 2011 to analyse the effect of Eurotunnel’s freight charges on the transport industry. The report was sent by FTA to the European Commission with the request to open an inquiry on the freight tolls and pricing strategy claiming that these breached EU rail freight directives.
The report (prepared by MDS Transmodal Limited) showed that the Channel tunnel was not being utilised to anywhere near its full potential because of the high cost to rail freight operators, and included within its conclusions was that ‘if tolls were cut by 75% then the number of trains (including piggyback) would rise to around 41 per direction through the tunnel. This would allow rail freight volumes to achieve their potential, generating significant environmental benefits. The transfer of around 640,000 unit loads per annum to rail could save around 250,000 tonnes of CO2 p.a.’
Campaigning against the inappropriate pricing regime instigated by Eurotunnel and reducing freight charges through the tunnel has been a key FTA Rail Freight Council policy objective, as the association has long been calling on Eurotunnel to address the excessive tolls that they have imposed on rail freight.
Chris Welsh, FTA General Manager of Global & European Policy said: "We welcome the European Commission’s decision today which reinforces FTA’s argument that Eurotunnel’s totally inappropriate pricing regime has potentially been in contravention of the EU charging directives.
"FTA now calls upon the governments to change the existing arrangements, in order 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."