Memorandum by Alberti & Santi (CHT
Many thanks for your letter of 25 April concerning
companies currently experiencing problems using the Channel Tunnel
I am sure that this problem is very well documented,
however, I am grateful for the opportunity to present a resume,
regarding how Alberti & Santi have been affected over the
past five months.
Since early November 2001, the operation via
the Channel Tunnel for rail freight has been seriously affected
by continual attacks to rail freight by clandestine illegal immigrants
in the region of the Fréthun freight terminal at Calais,
details of which I am sure you are well aware. During the busy
run-up to the Christmas period, Alberti & Santi were forced
to seek alternative routes for the movement of goods between Italy
and the UK and vice versa. Unfortunately, due to the time involved
and having to revert to largely, a road operation, there was a
serious loss of traffic as well as increased cost. The situation
became so serious during January, February and March of this year,
that the freight service via rail was abandoned for several weeks
at a time.
It should be remembered that when the Channel
Tunnel was opened for freight in the early 1990s, companies such
as Alberti & Santi were encouraged to expand transport operations
and in particular to operate via the rail systems. We were assured
this would be a secure and reliable system and the decision was
taken that this was the direction Alberti & Santi should take.
Considerable investment was put into equipment, in the setting
up of Road Track Ltd and whilst in the early years there were
teething problems the service developed and was working to acceptable
levels. The problems with illegal immigrants started two years
ago, when the train wagons were being emptied in Italy. Following
strenuous efforts by operators, the Italian authorities improved
security in both the terminals and the trains-generally by-and-large,
the troubles ceased. It appears that the immigrant influx transferred
to the Calais area and initially ferries and Euro Tunnel were
affected. Ferry companies and Euro Tunnel invested heavily in
increased security and again the problem was more or less curtailed.
It then seems that the illegal immigrants, or persons involved
in organising them, turned their attention to the freight terminal
at Fréthun and together with the opening of the Sangatte
Refugee Camp (Just a short distance from Fréthun) the situation
was allowed to escalate.
I, myself have written numerous letters to the
UK and European Government Ministers and whilst sometimes replies
are received, up until the last few weeks, no one is doing anything
about this ongoing problem.
During the latter part of March, the UK and
French Governments gave categorical assurances that services for
rail freight would be restored to normal by mid April. This, obviously
has not occurred and the situation has deteriorated so dramatically
that the clandestine persons are now even attacking metal containers
or hanging onto the outside of freight trains, in order to pass
through the Tunnel.
Alberti & Santi have now decided that whilst
we are willing to continue support for the rail freight operation,
alternative methods of moving goods from mainland Europe to the
UK and vice versa, have to be found, as we are unable to maintain
client confidence any longer. This clearly means a return to more
Alberti & Santi have had to reduce their
client base and this has been developed over the last 8 years
involving movement by rail, which in both volume and cost terms
is more efficient for long haul transport. Even though we have
reduced the volume, our costs have increased and this can not
be sustained indefinitely. For these reasons, it is vital that
continued pressure should be brought upon both French and UK Governments,
by whatever means, to resolve the problem for rail, as it is impossible
for rail operators to resolve this dire situation alone.
Please keep me informed as to the outcome, after
the evidence is presented to the Transport Sub-Committee.
R T Sheppard
8 May 2002