Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by English Welsh & Scottish Railway (EWS) and English Welsh & Scottish Railway International (EWSI) (CHT 09)



  1.1  EWS and its associated international rail freight company EWSI welcome the opportunity to offer written evidence to the Transport Sub-Committee's inquiry into Rail Freight and the Channel Tunnel. In this submission we refer to EWS but this should be taken to include EWSI.

  1.2  EWS is Britain's leading rail freight operator, hauling over 100 millions tonnes of freight and moving over 21 billion net-tonne kilometres of freight per annum, equivalent to more than nine million lorry journeys. Since 1995, EWS has invested some £750 million in new rolling stock, equipment and systems and together with that from other parts of the rail freight industry the total commitment in rail freight from private sector sources is roundly £1 billion. This investment is continuing and-along with supportive Government transport and land-use planning policies-has helped rail freight to grow by 50% over the last six years. Growth has been particularly strong in the domestic freight market.

  1.3  Rail's share of the UK surface freight market (ie, road + rail) has risen from less than 7% to 11%. Latest data shows that traffic grew by nearly 9% in 2001-02, making the rail freight industry well placed to meet the Government's target of 80% growth by 2010. This will help to reduce the impact of road congestion on the UK economy and environment. A strong Channel Tunnel rail freight industry is a fundamental part of the rail and broader transport priorities of the Government and the European Commission.

  1.4  The Transport Act 2000 gives the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) a specific duty to promote international services via the Channel Tunnel and the SRA's Freight Strategy states (page 36) that the international market:

  "represents at the same time the greatest single opportunity to increase rail's market share and the most difficult problem to address. The aim of the Strategy is to realise the potential of the market and to facilitate the establishment of sustainable international services between the regions of the UK and continental destinations via the Channel Tunnel".

  1.5  The SRA's strategic plan (page 31) states that the SRA must publish a strategy "relating to services in various parts of Great Britain for facilitating the carriage of passengers and goods by rail by way of the Channel Tunnel". However the plan also states that:

  "The recent disturbances in Channel Tunnel freight services because of concerns about illegal immigration to the UK have affected the confidence of the freight market and the SRA is working closely with Government and the industry to tackle this."

  1.6  The European Commission in its Transport White paper and Second Railway Package places growth in rail freight in general, and international rail freight in particular, at the centre of its transport policy.

  1.7  Despite these national and international objectives the last six months have seen international rail freight services using the Channel Tunnel brought to the point of collapse. The laudable objectives for Channel Tunnel rail freight have been undermined by the lack of action by the French authorities to provide proper security at the Fréthun freight yard near Calais. This has resulted in the enforced cancellation of services and damage to goods by asylum seekers. Many customers have been forced to switch to other modes. Unless immediate corrective action is taken the future of international rail freight services will be in great danger.


  2.1  EWS's international rail freight business has three distinct segments all of which have been adversely affected by the current problems:

    —  intermodal

    —  conventional wagons

    —  automotive industry.

  Intermodal customers include Combined Transport Limited (CTL), ICF, Unilog, CNC and Transfesa. Users of conventional wagon services include agents such as Rainbow Rail, Physical Distribution and Freight Europe UK, but also block train buyers such as Guinness UDV in the drinks sector and StoraEnso in the reeled paper sector, whilst Automotive industry customers are Ford Motor Company and Jaguar through their agent STVA Group and Peugeot/Citroen through its subsidiary Gefco. However, the disruption affects all parties involved in the business such as logistics providers, terminal operators, including Tibbett and Britten and wagon suppliers. Continental railways such as SNCF, Italian Railways (FS), Belgian Railways (SNCB) and German Railways (DB) are also suffering losses.


  3.1  In November 2001 the French National railways (SNCF) were forced to restrict the number of Channel Tunnel rail freight services operating as a result of asylum seekers repeatedly invading the freight yard at Fréthun. During normal operation EWS would expect to operate between 15 and 20 import trains each day of the week. A similar number of export trains would also operate. SNCF's restrictions mean that between seven and zero trains operate each night which means that during the last six months over 3,300 Channel Tunnel rail freight services have been cancelled.

  3.2  Over 1,500 asylum seekers have been found on freight trains arriving at the EWS freight yard at Dollands Moor near Folkestone. The previous stop of these trains is the SNCF freight yard at Fréthun where there is a change of locomotive and traincrew as well as an inspection of the train.

  3.3  EWS has lost revenue of over £10 million. Although EWS is able to avoid variable costs such as fuel the majority of its costs are semi-variable or fixed. As we wish to continue in the international rail freight business we have maintained the necessary resource base.

  3.4  Since November 2001, Channel Tunnel rail freight has only operated 40% of normal services, putting 60% of existing traffic back onto the road network. This has seen the return of over 100,000 lorry movements to the road networks of Britain and Europe, increasing road congestion particularly in the south-east of England.

  3.5  Despite efforts by all the parties involved the continuation of the problem is undermining customer confidence. Reduced and unreliable services, damage to goods and transport units by asylum seekers (breakages and human waste) and negative publicity are destroying the credibility of international rail freight. Long term customers are walking away from rail freight, possibly permanently, pushing Channel Tunnel rail freight into decline.

  3.6  Before this crisis began EWS and its partners were planning an expansion of services for Channel Tunnel rail freight. These plans are now under review. One example was the major expansion of the Mossend Euroterminal in Scotland, which would have greatly enhanced the terminal's ability to handle more traffic. This £12.5 million scheme is at risk because of the problems with Channel Tunnel services.

  3.7  Unless the issues of security at Fréthun are resolved then EWS believes that Channel Tunnel rail freight will eventually collapse, increasing costs for businesses in Britain and across Europe.


  4.1  International rail freight problems are centred on the SNCF yard at Fréthun near Calais. This yard has been under siege from asylum seekers since November 2001 because of inadequate policing and inadequate physical security such as fencing, CCTV and infra-red cameras.

  4.2  The current schedule of specific policing support provided by the French authorities is inadequate and ineffective. Over a 24-hour period, there are no gendarmes for 12 hours. The maximum support of 55 gendarmes is in place only four hours per day and cannot police three miles of fence.
Hours of

Number of
gendarmes who arrive
Number of
gendarmes present
0300-0500(25 leave) 30
0500-1700(30 leave) 0

  4.3  The effects of the poor policing can be seen on the video recently sent to all members of the Transport Sub-Committee by EWS.

  4.4  In addition, the policing resources of the British Transport Police in Kent are being used to process asylum seekers and to take them from the EWS Dollands Moor freight yard to Immigration Services in Dover. This prevents the BTP from doing their core job of policing the railway and preventing crime.

  4.5  The Fréthun yard is surrounded by fences, both of which are easy to penetrate or climb. This is in stark contrast to the fencing provided around the Eurotunnel site, which is both higher and includes more effective deterrents such as barbed wire. The Fréthun fence is also extremely inadequate compared with the fencing at EWS's Dollands Moor yard, which consists of palisade fencing together with CCTV equipped with video motion detection cameras.


  5.1  EWS has chosen not to comment on immigration policy; that is a matter for others. However EWS welcomes the signals that the British Government is seeking, with the French Government, to address the underlying causes of asylum seekers attempting to enter Britain on freight trains. However, it would be wrong to take the view that the closure of the Red Cross camp at Sangatte alone would resolve the problem.

  5.2  The problem of asylum seekers is a multi-faceted issue. Closure of the Sangatte camp, which provides a concentration of 1,500-asylum seekers two miles from the Channel Tunnel, will be an important step in resolving this crisis. However, proper security and 24-hour policing at the rail freight yard at Fréthun must accompany any closure of the camp. Unless the French authorities improve security at the freight yard, services will still be disrupted, asylum seekers will still make their way to Folkestone and the Channel Tunnel asylum problem will remain. The British Government must demand from the French Government the essential security and policing at Fréthun, alongside any closure of the Sangatte camp.


  6.1  EWS has stated that it is in the Channel Tunnel rail freight business for the long term. The consequence of this decision has been that the company has to endure both rising financial losses and loss of business. The long-term approach has been taken by EWS because of the investment by EWS in Channel Tunnel rail freight and the employment of the 321 EWS employees whose work depends upon Channel Tunnel rail freight services. EWS also owns or leases extensive international rail freight assets including terminals, yards, locomotives and wagons.

  6.2  EWS has the option to relinquish the Channel Tunnel rail freight business if it cannot operate the services in line with its commercial objectives. EWS has no wish to take this course of action.


  7.1  Both the British and French Governments hold obligations in respect of the security and running of Channel Tunnel rail freight services through the Treaty of Canterbury (12 February 1986).

  7.2  This treaty states that both Governments are:

  Confident that a Channel fixed link will greatly improve communications between the United Kingdom and France and give fresh impetus to relations between the two countries.

  Desiring to contribute to the development of relations and of exchanges between the Member States of the European Communities and more generally between European States.

  In addition:

  Article 2 (1)—The High Contracting Parties shall take measures which are necessary to ensure that the construction and operation of the Fixed Link shall be consistent with their international obligations.

  Article 10(1)—An Intergovernmental Commission shall be established to supervise . . . all matter concerning the construction and operation of the Fixed Link.

  Article 10(3)(f)—considering . . . any other matter which appears to it to be necessary to consider.

  In view of these obligations it is disappointing that the operation of through freight services has been allowed to deteriorate. By failing to safeguard the provision of services through the Tunnel, the British and French governments are acting contrary to their own policies on the development of rail transport and those of the wider EU.

  7.3  Member states of the European Community, including France, have obligations under the Treaty of Rome. These obligations require a member state to ensure that it takes all necessary and proportionate measures to ensure that the free movement of goods is not obstructed by actions of private individuals (asylum seekers). These obligations are under Article 10 (ex Article 5), Article 28 (ex Article 30) and Article 29 (ex Article 34) of the Treaty of Rome:

  Article 10 (ex Article 5): Member States shall take all appropriate measures, whether general or particular, to ensure fulfilment of the obligations arising out of this Treaty or resulting from action taken by institutions of the Community. They shall facilitate the achievement of the Community's tasks. They shall abstain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the objectives of this Treaty.

  Article 28 (ex Article 30): Quantitative restrictions on imports and all measures having equivalent effect shall be prohibited between Member States.

  Article 29 (ex Article 34): Quantitative restrictions on exports, and all measures having equivalent effect, shall be prohibited between Member States.

  The disruption caused by asylum seekers boarding freight trains has created an obstacle to the free movement of goods as SNCF has been forced to reduce, or at times suspend, northbound rail freight traffic in the Channel Tunnel. France's failure to prevent such actions puts it in breach of its EC obligations.

  7.4  As a result EWS has lodged a complaint with the European Commission and a petition with the European Parliament. On 22 May 2002 EWS's petition was heard by the European Parliament's Petitions Committee. The Committee supported the petition and called for a number of actions:

    —  that the Transport Commissioner attends the next meeting of the Committee (19 June) to explain the Commission's actions;

    —  that the Commission makes a formal request under article 5 of the 1998 Council Regulation (Functioning of the internal market and the free movement of goods across Europe) thus enabling action to be taken against the French Government;

    —  that the French and British Governments appear before the Committee; and

    —  that a full debate on the issue in the European Parliament should be considered.


  EWS is seeking the following action.

  8.1  The immediate provision of policing at the Fréthun freight yard 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The policing should be at a level sufficient to deter asylum seekers attempting to board trains at Fréthun.

  8.2  The provision of high-security fencing around Fréthun yard sufficient to provide a permanent deterrent to asylum seekers. This fencing should be at least equivalent to that in place at the Eurotunnel site and ideally similar to the fencing provided by EWS at its Dollands Moor yard.

  8.3  Pressure to be exerted by the UK Government on the French Authorities to ensure the actions identified above are completed. The following UK Government Departments all have an interest in the successful conclusion of this problem:

    —  Department for Transport.

    —  Home Office.

    —  Department of Trade & Industry.

    —  Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

  8.4  Action to be taken by the European Commission under the Treaty of Rome in response to EWS's complaint that the Republic of France is taking insufficient action to ensure the free movement of goods between member states of the European Union.

  8.5  The remit of the Intergovernmental Commission should be reviewed and revised to ensure a more positive involvement in restoring services to the anticipated levels.

  8.6  Compensation to be provided to EWS and other industry parties who have suffered financial losses because of the disruption to international freight services.

  8.7  Provision of funding by the Strategic Rail Authority as part of a strategy to relaunch international freight services. Such funding could be on a unit or block basis.

English Welsh & Scottish Railway Limited

10 June 2002



  It may be helpful if this submission provides a brief chronology of recent events.
October 2001Eurotunnel completes the installation of extensive security measures to combat the activities of Clandestines on their terminal at Coquelles (adjacent to the SNCF yard at Fréthun).

November 2001
Fréthun repeatedly invaded by would be clandestine entrants seeking to enter the UK via freight trains operated by SNCF. SNCF obliged to halt services due to dangerous situation in Fréthun-security staff attacked. SNCF advises other railway operators in Europe that they are unable to accept any new trains for the UK until further notice-27 trains waiting acceptance. Backlog eventually cleared at the rate of five trains per night under the protection of the police.

November 2001
Limited services resumed during 2100-0300 window when police scheduled to be present.

December 2001
SNCF starts to erect new security fencing and installation of other security measures.

February 2002
David Blunkett MP, the Home Secretary, tells Parliament that the £2,000 civil penalty against EWS is being dropped as the Home Office accepts that EWS is not the responsible operator for asylum seekers arriving into Britain on Channel Tunnel rail freight services.

February 2002
Fencing is totally inadequate to deal with increased numbers of clandestines trying to gain access to trains. The limited services operating disrupted several times. Over 4,000 clandestines removed from Fréthun by the French authorities.

March 2002
Clandestines seen riding on freight trains entering the Channel Tunnel, services stopped by Eurotunnel. 58 shuttle trains cancelled. SNCF place traffic restrictions on all new trains-17 in the pipeline waiting to cross through the tunnel. Extremely limited operation possible at Calais Fréthun. A six hour operating window 2100-0300 only possible with police presence.

March 2002
The UK Minister for Transport, pledges a "rapid return to normal working" of Channel Tunnel rail freight services following a meeting with the French Government.

March 2002
RFG-AUTF conference in Calais-SNCF agreed to restore service to "normal" (ie, Timetable operating in November 2001), from 2 April.

March 2002
EWS's International arm lodges a formal complaint with the European Commission stating that the Republic of France was in breach of obligations contained in the Treaty of Rome, namely the free movement of goods across Europe. EWS also petitions the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament citing the same complaint.

2 April 2002
Normal working does not resume.

10 April 2002
Stephen Byers MP, then Secretary of State for Transport, tells the Transport Sub-Committee that the Government will hold the French authorities to running 72 Channel Tunnel rail freight services a week

15 April 2002
First week of "Normal" service only achieved 40 trains rather than 72 due to continued invasion of Fréthun by clandestines in Calais. EWS and SNCF agree to limit services to maximum of eight per day from 13 May to try and inject reliability and certainty into the business

May 2002
Operation disrupted during previous weekend due to lack of police in Fréthun. SNCF increase restriction due to severe backlog of trains. No new trains accepted, 23 trains waiting to pass through the Tunnel. Mr. Blair is given assurances by the French authorities that security would be restored at Fréthun. This is to the levels outlined in the "Policing at Fréthun" section below. SNCF commit to improving fencing and provide better security at Fréthun. Statement made that work will commence in the summer. Restriction on services lifted by SNCF as backlog cleared.

23 May 2002
Another SNCF restriction on services imposed due to a backlog of services at Fréthun.

29 May 2002
Services further deteriorate as only 39 import trains a week are operated rather than the normal 96.


Number of freight trains operated between France and UK since November 2001

  Normal service refers to the planned timetable that should be operating and has been suspended due to the clandestine activity in Calais-Fréthun (inbound direction only). This table also shows the number of clandestines found on trains on arrival at Dollands Moor by EWS security staff.
W/e10/11 17/1124/1101/12 08/1216/12 22/1229/12
Normal service9696 969696 969611
Trains run France-UK

32 232735 35383911
Clandestines at Dollands Moor

9266  9 413621 15  0
W/e05/01 12/0119/0126/01 02/0209/02 16/0223/02
Normal service1896 969696 969696
Trains run France-UK

17 364544 44454740
Clandestines at Dollands Moor5 161114 3137121 63
W/e02/03 09/0316/0323/03 30/0307/04 14/0421/0429/04
Normal service9696 80196801 85  96  96   96
Trains run France-UK45 27214130 42  46  40   43
Clandestines at Dollands Moor75 351826 1438181 137104
W/e05/05 12/0519/0526/05 02/0609/06 Total
Normal service96802 969696 803

Trains run France-UK34 28273035 31

Clandestines at Dollands Moor79 877734 0612

1  CTRL blockade

Three Public Holidays this week

3  Two Public Holidays this week

Percentage of trains run    39.4%


Damage to Channel Tunnel rail freight containers

  This table records the number of intermodal units to be damaged or to contain damaged goods on arrival in the UK during 2002, caused by either clandestine entrants forcibly gaining entry/exit and/or by causing damage to the goods in the units. On average 10% of containers a month need to be repaired and this further damages customer confidence in Channel Tunnel rail freight.
MonthJan Feb March April May* Total
Intermodal Units Moved2,691 2,816 2,125 2,521 1,575 11,728
Units Damaged  82   209   189   310   250   1,040
% of units Damaged  3%   7.4%   8.9% 12.3% 15.9%   8.9%

*  Up to 26 May 2002

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