South East Conservative Euro-MP Richard Ashworth has welcomed a demand by the EU to cut the costs of using the Channel Tunnel, which add over £35 to the cost of a return ticket.
The MEP who has led many campaigns to open up the Channel Tunnel to more services and increased competition, said the demand would not only see cross-channel travel prices cut, but it would also encourage other train operators to begin using the tunnel.
The tunnel operator Eurotunnel currently charges a reservation fee of €4,320 (£3,700) for each train, plus €16.60 (£14) per passenger. On a full train, the cost would be over £35 per traveller for a return journey. The commission has said that this cost is twice what it should be, and it is calling on the UK and France to reduce the feed or face legal proceedings.
Currently, the tunnel is only used to 43 percent of its capacity. Mr Ashworth has long led a campaign to open up the tunnel and the High Speed line to other services, so that passengers have more choice over destinations and between train operators. Already, German ICE trains have been granted approval to use the tunnel with the possibility of offering services to Brussels and Frankfurt.
Mr Ashworth, who leads the Conservatives in the European Parliament, said:
“We are still not making full use of the Channel Tunnel and the High Speed Line for freight and passenger services, and excessively high tunnel costs are part of the problem.
“We can have high speed trains going from Ashford and Ebbsfleet to all over northern and southern Europe if only we open up the lines to greater competition.
“The UK and France should cut the costs of using the tunnel. Not only will this reduce Eurostar costs immediately, but it will make operating through the tunnel more attractive for other operators.
“Eurostar must make sure that any price cuts are passed on to consumers in cheaper fares. Breaking the Eurostar monopoly on high speed travel to the continent will be better for travellers and for the south east England economy.
“With people watching their budgets and wanting to take holidays closer to home without braving the airports, this warning is a welcome boost in the campaign to make cross-channel travel cheaper and easier.”