Eurotunnel trucks

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has welcomed a call by the European Commission for France and the UK to address the issue of excessive Channel tunnel rail freight charges.

In late June, EC vice-president Siim Kallas said the tunnel was not being used to full capacity due to high track access charges, adding that tunnel regulator the Intergovernmental Commission did not have sufficient powers to act on its own initiative .

“As a result, more freight is being carried on lorries instead of by rail,” he said.

Rail freight traffic passing through the tunnel in 2012 came to just 2,325 freight trains (excluding Eurotunnel-operated shuttle services), stressed the EC, compared to 2,388 in 2011 and 2,718 in 2008. Freight train charges of at least €3,645 (one way) for using the tunnel “should be considerably lower”, it suggested in its call.

FTA general manager of global and European policy, Chris Welsh, said the EC’s call reinforced FTA’s own views about Eurotunnel’s “totally inappropriate” pricing regime.

He added: “FTA calls upon the governments to change the existing arrangements in order to promote the use of rail freight”.

A report commissioned by FTA in 2011 to analyse the effect of Eurotunnel’s freight charges suggested that the transfer of around 640,000 unit loads a year to rail would save close to 250,000 tonnes of CO2.

France and the UK have two months to respond to the EC’s call.