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UK and France told cut Chunnel prices

Brussels says they must reduce ‘excessive’ rail tariffs that were ‘stifling growth’ or face court action

BRITAIN and France have been told by the European Commission to reduce tariffs for trains using the Channel Tunnel – saying that high Eurotunnel charges were “stifling growth in the rail sector” and especially for freight transport.

Brussels has given the two countries two months to act or face legal action. Transport commissioner Siim Kallas said the charges were “excessive” and could be cut by up to 50%.

He said they were stopping freight traffic from switching from road to rail and the tunnel was being used to only around half of capacity.

The Commission has also called on Britain and France to rethink the agreement that restricts tunnel usage to certain rail companies for a 65-year period. It says this is too long under EU rules.

Just days ago Eurotunnel announced that German rail company Deutschebahn could use the tunnel along with the existing passenger operator, Eurostar.

Mr Kallas said that high charges meant that high volumes of goods were being transported by road and could be switched to rail with a new tariff rate. At present Eurotunnel – the only tunnel operator, although it was opened to competition in 2010 – charges €16.60 per passenger plus a booking fee for the train of €4,320 one-way.

Eurotunnel said in a statement that “Access charges are defined in the Railway Usage Contract (RUC), signed in 1987 by the national operators, British Railways Board and SNCF. They are proportional to the cost of the adjacent public infrastructures and more advantageous. Eurotunnel has always sought the development of cross-Channel traffic and concentrates significant resources on this goal.”

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