Eurotunnel ferry ban stands

UK competition watchdog says Tunnel operator has cross-Channel monopoly with its MyFerryLink service

19 May 2014

CHANNEL Tunnel operator Eurotunnel has failed in its appeal against a Competition Commission ruling barring it from operating the MyFerryLink service from Dover.

In its provisional ruling, the Competition and Markets Authority ordered Eurotunnel to halt services in six months, banned it from operating a ferry service from Dover for two years and banned it from using the ferries Berlioz and Rodin on this route for the next 10 years.

Despite an improvement in the cross-Channel market, the CMA upheld an earlier CC decision saying Eurotunnel had a monopoly position and should be banned.

The company had bought former SeaFrance ferries in 2012 and worked with a workers’ cooperative of former SeaFrance staff to set up the MyFerryLink service on the Dover-Calais route.

Last year the Competition Commission said Eurotunnel would have a monopoly on the cross-Channel route as the new service brought its market share to more than half – and this could lead to one of the other ferry operators closing, meaning job losses and higher fares.

At least two of the other ferry firms are making losses and, with ferries as well as its Channel Tunnel business, Eurotunnel would increase its market share to over half, which was likely to lead to the failure of a rival and, in turn, to higher prices.

In a CMA statement, Alasdair Smith, of the Eurotunnel Remittal Group, said: “MyFerryLink is making losses and being funded by Eurotunnel. This is causing the current level of competition on the Dover–Calais route to be unsustainable and is likely to lead to the exit of a competitor.

“The interest of cross-Channel customers, both passengers and freight, will not be well served if Eurotunnel ends up as one of only two ferry operators in addition to owning the competing rail link.

“It’s much better to have three competing cross-Channel operators – Eurotunnel running the rail link and two independent operators on the ferry route.

“We have looked again at our proposed solution of banning Eurotunnel from operating ferries from Dover. We don’t think any of the alternatives proposed to us will restore effective competition on the Channel. A six-month notice period before the ban comes into effect will minimise disruption and uncertainty for ferry customers.”

He said it will publish its final decision next month after getting responses from the groups involved.

French Transport Minister Frédéric Cuvillier said he would speak to European and British ministers about the situation and support MyFerryLink in a new appeal to defend both French and British jobs.

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