by Phil Marsh

Eurotunnel 20th anniversary expansion plans announced as conflicting European Regulators’ decisions are made

Published: 17th July 2014

Taking your Ferret to mainland Europe by Channel Tunnel train

The Channel Tunnel, known as Eurotunnel is now just over 20 years old and traffic continues to increase so extra capacity is about to be provided for the rail shuttle service users.

The project, called ‘Terminal 2015’ has been officially launched and a huge parking area is under construction at Coquelles offering another 370 parking spaces with a smaller one being built at Folkestone. This is because there is more land available at Coquelles as much of the land used at Folkestone is now a nature reserve or was too expensive to buy 30 years ago!

Eurotunnel now carries 1.5 million trucks annually, forecast to rise to two million in the next decade. The project will provide a buffer parking zone, enabling rapid transit and an easier access to the check in area, which will increase to five lanes from the current two. Both schemes will help local motorway traffic problems when there is disruption as with the recent overhead wire problems in the tunnel.

The increased facilities will allow eight trains an hour to operate, two more than now.

They said:

Jacques Gounon of Groupe Eurotunnel SA, said:

“Eurotunnel is making these investments to provide new services and unbeatable frequency of departure for its ever increasing numbers of customers”

Smarter travelling with new technology

On a private trip around Coquelles, arranged by Nord France Invest, Eurotunnel said that they would be investing in smart technology so that if you arrived early for your shuttle, or were delayed by traffic, then you would automatically be rebooked on a more convenient shuttle so long as room was available. This would be done via mobile phones or tablets ‘talking’ to Eurotunnel computers.

Removal of HS1 link with HS2 threatens Cross-Channel traffic

The announcement that HS2 would not be connected to HS1 could hit its viability as there would be no chance to run trains through the Channel Tunnel from Manchester, Leeds or Birmingham said Eurotunnel’s Jacques Gounon. They have a long-term interest in rail as they hold the operating concession until 2086.

Europorte think that through services from Germany and Holland to London may commence in 2020 but this depends on safety accreditation and approval.

Rail traffic through the tunnel is currently using about 57% of the capacity with 706 freight services running in the last three months, an increase of 13%. Eurostar passengers rose by 3% to 2.3 million in the same period. Just under 350,000 lorries were carried by rail shuttles in the same three month period.

The main traffic flows are to the UK on Mondays/Tuesdays/Wednesdays and from the UK on Thursdays and Fridays. The decision not to link HS1 and HS2 will hit freight as it will not be able to go further than London due to gauge constraints.

This may effect overall carbon emissions as Eurotunnel uses electricity generated in France at nuclear power stations. This has allowed them to reduce year on year their carbon footprint.

Europorte, major rail operators

Europorte is a major rail operator owning for example, Great Britain Railfreight (GBRF) as well as operating the shuttle services through the tunnel. GBRF will also be operating the Anglo-Scottish sleepers later this year on behalf of Serco who have won the new franchise. In fact, Europorte operate over 1000 main line trains a week in total, 800 in the UK and 210 in France.

They run between 300 and 400 trains a day through the tunnel which is the most heavily used rail infrastructure in the world. The shuttles are 828 metres long and fit into new workshops in Coquelles which are a kilometre long.

Thanks to the visit arranged by Nord-France Invest, the Eurotunnel operation at Coquelles was observed at close quarters and offers a seemless way to travel using road and rail. So after a troubled financial start, the benefits to all are flowing smoothly!

Ferrets love travelling through Eurotunnel

In the last 20 years, 1.1 million pets have used the Channel Tunnel, the most popular being Cats and Dogs closely followed by Ferrets. In fact, so many are carried that there is a bespoke webpage with a guide to carrying ferrets by rail through the channel tunnel!

All Ferrets must be microchipped before travelling and they must be in a secure cage with small gaps no bigger than 1-2 cm, to prevent an escaped ferret in the tunnel. It is suggested they travel in a cage equipped with a hammock, water, food and a litter tray because ferrets have a short digestive system. And while waiting for your rail shuttle, why not put your ferret in a harness and take it for a walk Eurotunnel suggests.

European Regulators at odds with each other over Europorte

The owners and operators of the Channel Tunnel, Groupe Eurotunnel, (GE) has described as absurd the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) decision to ban MyFerryLink ships working from Dover.

This decision was made after GE purchased three cross-channel ferries after the collapse of SeaFrance three years ago. The ferries affected are The Berlioz and Rodin and the UK Regulatory Authorities have said that GE also operating cross-channel ships would create a monopoly.

The French Regulatory authorities on the other hand, have decreed that there is no problem over GE operating cross channel ferries. This has created a completely unique situation where two European Regulators have come up with opposing decisions on the same matter and leaves GE literally in uncharted waters.

So who runs cross-channel traffic?

Eurotunnel carries 37% of traffic followed by P&O with 29% and DFDS with 24% market share. MyFerryLink carries 9% and GE argue that ferry competitors have strong positions which are not compromised by their ferries which employ 600 people.

GE regards the ferries as complimentary rather than in competition to the tunnel as some goods cannot be taken through the tunnel and bad weather halts sailings from time to time.

They said:

Jacques Gounon said; “The decision by the CMA is a denial of the reality of the situation. It penalises the consumer and puts 600 people out of work without any real justification.”

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