Memorandum by Environmental Freight Services
Ltd (E.F.S.) (CHT 18)
RAIL FREIGHT AND THE CHANNEL TUNNEL
1. EFS is an intermodal operator with 650
curtain sided equipment units and containers capable of both road
and rail carriage of freight.
2. EFS was established in 1998 in line with
UK government policy dedicated to moving freight by rail through
the Channel Tunnel for the Italian market. By utilizing Rail Heads
in the Midlands this minimises UK haulage usage.
3. The strategy for EFS was to use the Channel
Tunnel for 80% of its business whilst 20% used short-sea for London
and North-Eastern markets. Since November 2001 we have had a succession
of occasions when the rail freight services through the Channel
Tunnel have been suspended by SNCF (the French Railways) because
of continuing problems with Asylum seekers at the Fréthun
Goods Yard just outside the entrance to the Tunnel. The effect
on our use of the Tunnel has been as follows:
|Channel Tunnel %
||Short Sea %|
4. The suspension of the freight services through the
Channel Tunnel is having the following effects on the business
(a) Financial losses have been incurred from 6 November
2001 to 31 May 2002
(b) The use of short sea ferries rather than use of the
Channel Tunnel has increased our UK haulage costs by £100,000
(c) Whilst alternative routes are available for rail from
Italy to the UK via the Ports of Zeebrugge and Rotterdam, the
consequence of the Channel Tunnel suspensions on freight services
has resulted in congestion on the alternative routes, which has
increased average transit times from five-12 days from collection
to delivery. This compares with an overland road transit of three
days from Italy to the UK and VV. The five day transit time is
generally acceptable by customers because of the reduced price
of transporting by rail and support for a more environmentally
friendly transport system. A 12 day transit time is driving many
of our customers to road.
(d) As referred to in the previous paragraph our customers
are moving to road to meet their transit time needs. The use of
Italian hauliers has led to them seeking UK southbound business
at any price in order to avoid their southbound journey being
undertaken empty. This has severely affected market pricing, which
is now 25% less than 18 months ago.
(e) Our equipment is primarily curtain sided units, which
gives the flexibility of side entry for loading and delivery.
This type of equipment is however prone to damage by asylum seekers
coming to the UK. Their usual access is through the top of the
unit, which is more difficult to see at interchange points. If
the asylum seekers gain access they cause damage to our units
and invariably cause damage to our customers cargo, who will also
refuse to accept loads if there is evidence of human waste. This
causes more wasted journeys and escalations in our UK transport
(f) EFS had an in-house transport fleet of 16 vehicles,
but because of the ever-increasing losses, the drivers have all
been made redundant in an effort to reduce costs.
5. All the above factors have led to a loss of credibility
with the Channel Tunnel for freight services. Many of our customers
are now instructing EFS not to use the Channel Tunnel in any circumstances.
6. The whole rail freight structure for the Channel Tunnel
is in crisis. It is not possible to offer any regular or reliable
service through the Channel Tunnel. We have already seen the US
Parent Company of the Railhead at Hams Hall dispose of their interest,
and the Channel Tunnel Rail Aggregators, with whom we contract,
have advised us that they have to consider the possibility of
7. We are being advised that SNCF are in the process
of building a new fence around Fréthun Goods yard. We have
had news like this before and we and our customers have no confidence
that the rail freight service will improve. The fence should be
accompanied by a larger police resource.
8. It is the view of E.F.S. and shared by many in the
Industry that SNCF and/or the French Government are in breach
of the Free Movement of Goods Regulations and EFS should be compensated
accordingly for the financial losses we have sustained. Claims
submitted so far to the Rail Companies with whom we contract have
been met with a defence of "Force Majeure" because they
had no control of decisions made by SNCF/French Government.
9. As any legal action is likely to be time-consuming,
we believe that it would be right for the British Government to
give EFS and others within the industry financial support in the
intervening period in the form of an interest free loan to cover
the losses incurred since the first closure of the Channel Tunnel
on 6 November 2001. This loan should be repaid following a successful
action against either the British or French Governments.