Memorandum by Unilog UK Limited (CHT 13)
CHANNEL TUNNEL RAIL FREIGHT AND ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS
Unilog is a joint venture of Interferryboats
NV, Belgium and English Welsh and Scottish Railways Ltd, UK, engaged
in the business of Intermodal Rail transport between Belgium and
the UK via the Channel Tunnel. Services have been operating since
the start of Channel Tunnel operations in June 1994, peaking at
11 services per week in 1998-99 and then stabilizing at six services
per week up to the end of October 2001.An average of 16,000 units
per annum is moved via this route.
FROM 6 NOVEMBER
2001 TO 2 APRIL
From 6 November to 17 November there was a complete
block on all Freight services through the Tunnel. This was due
to the severe backlog of trains caused by the activities of the
Illegal Immigrants in Calais in the preceding weeks. Our Services
recommenced at a rate of three trains per week, a total of 17
services between then and the 28 December were run. A similar
pattern of sporadic operation continued until 12 March when once
again the Tunnel was shut to Freight traffic for a week to enable
a further backlog of trains to be cleared. Our Service then continued
at three trains per week until 2 April. During this whole period
the activities of the Illegal Immigrants was intense and it was
apparent that the whole operation was highly orchestrated by professional
Prior to the destabilizing of our service in
November 2001 we carried a good proportion of time sensitive traffics.
A typical train could reliably be assumed to carry 60% traffic
requiring "next day delivery" particularly those associated
with the petro-chemical industry. The nature of our operation
was such that a high degree of reliability was sustainable and
that consequently we were able to attract and retain a diversity
of market leaders as Customers. Once we were reduced in service
the majority of these clients were understandably forced to take
alternative routes to maintain their own credibility. The reduction
to our client base was dramatic as was our loss in revenue. We
were left with 100% of direct costs to cover with a hypothetical
maximum of 50% revenue.
FROM 2 APRIL
The SNCF declared at the Rail Freight Group
conference in Calais on 27 March that effective 2 April all services
would be returned to pre November 2001 levels. We attempted, once
again, to run a daily service. This was only partially successful
as the ever-increasing effects of the activities of the Illegal
Immigrants attempting to board services in Calais, Fréthun,
caused much delay and subsequent disruption. Once a train had
missed its allocated pathway through the Channel Tunnel it was
certain that it would be subject to the full attentions of the
Illegal Immigrants. The damage to the train and its contents could
delay the service by up to 72 hours. In one instance wagons were
held in Calais for eight days whilst being made fit to travel.
This situation continued until 10 May when all services were again
suspended whilst the backlog of trains was cleared. Services restarted
on 21 May for three nights and then, again, services were suspended
to clear the fresh backlog. It should be noted that on some nights
only two services in total moved through the Tunnel from France.
Planned services 6 November to 21 May 306
trains Actual164 trains.
Budgeted loadings 6 November to 21 May 7650
units Actual4100 units
Shortfall in Revenue£1.2 million
(a) Unilog's business has reached a point
whereby commercial aspirations have been severely diminished and
it is now questionable whether we have a viable product to put
into the marketplace.
(b) The 89 units, since 1 March this year,
entered and damaged by the Illegal Immigrants in Fréthun
is a graphic illustration to our Customers that we have lost operational
control of our own business.
(c) Whilst the alternative methods of transportation
struggled to cope with the increased volumes in the pre- Christmas
build-up last year, sufficient time has now passed for them to
stabilize their operations and, as such, they are now a viable
(d) Confidence in the Channel Tunnel has
been undermined to the point that even with a resumption of "PreImmigrant
Normal Working" it will take much to regain the lost business.
Reliability is now the over-riding consideration, any pricing
revision to encourage lost business to return would be meaningless
when recent experience has proved the integrity of the rest of
the package to be wanting.
(e) only after substantive security measures
have been put in place in Fréthun, backed up by political
resolve and action on both sides of the Channel, will we see a
long term future in our business. Regrettably those in the Freight
community have very long memories and, as such, we could have
lost the last eight years progress.
(f) At the time of writing 8 May we have
been advised by EWS Railway that the Emergency Timetable will
be reintroduced. The operating window in Calais, Fréthun
will be reduced to eight hours from 1900hrs to 0300hrs instead
of a theoretical 24 hours. This will mean a total of six trains
per night to cover the needs of all Channel Tunnel Freight Customers.
A truly disastrous situation.
11 June 2002