Wednesday, July 9, 2014

RoRo Freight and Passenger Ferry Service Picks up the Slack from Channel Tunnel Incident

Eurotunnel puts a Positive Spin on Breakdown and Cites it as Evidence UK Competition Body is Wrong
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE – UK – The secret of a good campaign, military or otherwise, is the ability to turn adversity into advantage, very much the thinking it appears behind Groupe Eurotunnel’s recent release regarding the Shuttle which was left immobile in the North Tunnel* earlier this week. Rather than speculate on the dangers of a live cable presumably falling from above, the company has chosen to use the incident to have another dig at the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which has deemed it necessary for the French outfit to close its subsidised MyFerryLInk RoRo freight and passenger service within six months.

Following the stranding of the train, the Shuttle involved in the initial incident had to be removed from the site by a diesel locomotive and brought to the platform in France, where passengers were met by Eurotunnel’s customer service staff and taken by bus to the Charles Dickens passenger terminal, in Coquelles, where hot drinks and food were waiting for them before being eventually reunited with their vehicles to continue their onward journeys. Repairs to the 800 metres of fallen catenary** and its supports were then undertaken and successfully concluded within twenty four hours.

According to Eurotunnel the build-up of traffic with only one tunnel operational meant it was necessary to find a method of carrying around 1,000 vehicles and this was done by transferring them to MyFerryLink, which put on extra services to cope with the additional traffic. Eurotunnel says that this ‘is clear evidence that the recent decision by the CMA to ban MyFerryLink from operating out of Dover is contrary to the efficient management of such cross-Channel incidents'.

Such measures would have done little to help foot passengers delayed at St Pancras but even with a reduced service, Eurotunnel and Eurostar traffic levels remained high, the company claiming 4,860 passenger vehicles and 2,284 trucks, 51 Eurostars and 6 freight trains were transported through the tunnel during the time the problem was being resolved, and Eurotunnel points out it invests around €110 million each year in maintaining and improving its infrastructure and training its staff to ensure the safety and comfort of its customers. Customer Experience Director, Yves Szrama, commented:

“We apologise to our customers for any disruption that the events yesterday may have caused. The safety of the passengers is always our first concern. Once that is assured, we want them to be comfortable, well informed and well looked after. The recent installation of mobile telephone services inside the Tunnel helped us keep our customers informed during the incident.”

* Obviously the tunnels run more East – West than North – South. The two are therefore running parallel and the more Northerly tunnel operates UK to France whilst the South tunnel vice versa.

** In layman’s terms a catenary is literally a wire suspended at both ends and looping down. In other words the wire carrying power through the North tunnel presumably drooped or fell too low causing the initial problem.

Photo: St. Pancras witnessed many travellers stranded awaiting trains during the incident.