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Eurotunnel told to cut charges to improve access to Channel Tunnel

Eurotunnel told to cut charges to improve access to Channel Tunnel

The European Commission has sent a formal request to France and the United Kingdom to comply with EU rules against excessive track access charges for passenger and freight trains in the Channel Tunnel.

The Commission has also asked them to ensure a fully independent regulator and to end an agreement which currently reserves capacity for certain train operators in a restrictive way.

The high track access charges get passed on to passengers in their ticket prices and rail freight companies complain that they cannot afford to send more freight through the Tunnel - it remains on the roads causing congestion and pollution.

European Commission vice president Siim Kallas said: “The Channel Tunnel is not being used to its full capacity because of these excessive charges.

“As a result, more freight is being carried on lorries instead of by rail, freight operators and their customers are being over-charged, and passenger are paying over-the-odds for their tickets.

“The current regime is also stifling growth in the rail sector.”

Excessive track access charges mean higher prices for rail passengers and rail freight companies when using the Tunnel.

It also discourages new railway operators from entering the market.

EU rules require track access charges to be set on the basis of direct/marginal costs – the cost directly incurred as a result of operating a train service.

As an exception for specific investment projects only, higher charges can be set on the basis of the long-term costs of such projects.

The current track access charges for use of the Channel Tunnel infrastructure do not appear to be based on direct costs or the long term investment costs of building the Tunnel, the EU said in a statement.