Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary note by the Minister of Transport (CHT 10A)

  When I appeared before the Select Committee on Wednesday 10 July, I undertook to provide a note in reply to the question from Anne McIntosh MP on the number of Channel Tunnel slots being used by SNCF and EWS since November last year.

  There is only one rail freight service through the Channel Tunnel, operated in partnership by EWS and SNCF using a common pool of locomotives. In effect, SNCF hands over to EWS responsibility for trains coming into the UK as they pass the mid-point of the Tunnel, and EWS similarly hands over to SNCF responsibility for trains as they cross into France. As SNCF does not operate independent freight services through the Tunnel, and it is not possible for a train to run through the Tunnel unobserved, we are confident that SNCF is not poaching any slots at the British Government's expense.

  According to figures provided by EWS, for the 34-week period from 4 November 2001 to 30 June 2002 inclusive, normal scheduled services from France to the UK would have been 3,020 trains. The normal weekly schedule would be 96 inbound trains (with scheduled reductions over Christmas and Easter, and in the first week in May when there are consecutive public holidays in France).

  The actual inbound train service for that period totalled 1,178 trains, less than 40% of the scheduled service.

  You will have seen from the reports of the meeting between the Home Secretary and the French Interior Minister on Friday 12 July that the ministers reiterated that normal freight services from the Frethun depot will resume from September, following measures to increase security at the site. I welcome this announcement. However, I would caution against expecting an immediate service of 100 trains per week in each direction. As I advised the Committee on 10 July, a number of companies who have been obliged in recent months to revert to road transport will have needed to sign contracts for a period of time with the road haulage industry. Those companies will not be likely to return to the rail freight providers until their contracts have run their course.

John Spellar MP

23 July 2002

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