Having commissioned a comprehensive report into the impact of Eurotunnel tolls on rail freight, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has warmly welcomed an announcement made by the European Commission today that it will take steps to investigate whether legislation affecting rail freight charging has been infringed.
As the UK’s leading multi-modal transport trade association, FTA is keen to see unlocked the logistical rail freight potential of the Channel Tunnel. But with Eurotunnel’s current pricing strategy this is unlikely.
Chris Welsh, FTA’s General Manager Global & European Policy, said:
"Prohibitively high access charges for freight services to use the Channel Tunnel represent a longstanding and serious concern for our members. Rail freight offers many benefits, both environmental and economic, and given the UK and EU are seeking to remove more lorries from the road it would make sense that the one key piece of rail infrastructure that connects us is freight-friendly."
Rail freight use on the Channel Tunnel accounts for just 15 per cent of its potential capacity, which is explained by the high access charges of £60 per km, compared with just £4 for High Speed 1 and £2 for Network Rail. Since the Channel Tunnel opened in 1995 rail freight going through it has not exceeded 3m tonnes a year, despite the market having grown considerably.
"Eurotunnel’s pricing strategy for rail freight is fundamentally flawed, and this is why it is not fulfilling anywhere near its true potential. Whereas in Britain freight trains generally pay marginal track access charges based on incremental cost-damage to the infrastructure, Eurotunnel pricing policy appears to be based on total cost recovery for the project. As such, prices are uncompetitive with other modes.
"Any action by the EC to resolve this problem and improve rail freight options for business should be welcomed."