Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Changes in Channel Tunnel Management Due to Unacceptable Freight and Passenger Rates

June Will See Switch of Control to Comply with EU Directive - and that Eurotunnel Ferry Debacle Just Won't Go Away
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE – UK – From June, the French rail regulator, Autorité de Régulation des Activités Ferroviaires (Araf) and its British counterpart, the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) will take over the responsibility of monitoring the conditions of access and the tariffs for the Channel Tunnel, from the Intergovernmental Commission (IGC). The change comes after EU criticism of freight and passenger rates.

The ICG will continue with its other responsibilities with regards to the Tunnel, including issues surrounding safety and security, but the economic matters needed to be transferred to the two national regulators in order to comply with a European directive which requires independent economic regulation to be provided by both France and Britain.

This matter stems from a ‘Reasoned Opinion’ issued by the European Commission on 20 June 2013 to both the UK and France concerning alleged non-compliance with various provisions of the First Railway Package with respect to the Channel Tunnel. The European Commission’s opinion followed earlier Letters of Formal Notice under Article 258 to both the UK and France in September 2011. The Commission considered that the charges imposed on passengers and freight customers were unacceptably high, and not set in accordance with the criteria provided by European Law. It also took issue with the length of long-term agreements giving access to the infrastructure to some train operators.

In terms of economic regulation of the Channel Tunnel, the Commission considered that the IGC did not meet the requirements of the relevant EU legislation. First, the Commission considered that the IGC lacked the ability to take regulatory decisions on its own initiative in the absence of an appeal by a train operator. Secondly, the Commission also considered that the IGC lacked the necessary regulatory independence because of its links with the Governments, and the links of public authorities with industry parties.

Next week will see another tunnel related matter brought to a head – yet again – SCOP has been granted leave to appeal then in the matter of the continued operation of the vessels involved in the Eurotunnel group RoRo subsidiary MyFerryLink, currently up for sale after it had been forbidden to continue operations by the British authorities.