Eurotunnel Chairman Jaques Gounon has branded a train security charge levied by the French railway network as ‘ unacceptable’ and damaging to international rail freight.

Gounon was commenting yesterday following the announcement of the tunnel operator’s H1 results which revealed a 10% drop in freight trains using the subsea crossing and a 14% drop in tonnage.

He said a drop in British exports was partially behind the drop but that the €600 per train ‘security levy’ was substantially more than the €450 which Eurotunnel charges freight train operators to make the crossing.

“Exportation from British companies had been very intensive in 2011 but not this year so this explains part of the difference,” said Gounon, “but having said that, in the long term there is the fact that the French Railway Network RFF has decided from 1 January to have a safety levy of €600 per train.

“In order to cross the tunnel we only request €450 so RFF is asking for something which is much greater than the real cost of going through the tunnel. This is something which is really detrimental for traffic and this could jeopardise international traffic. It is an excessive payment not related to any direct cost.”

He said he believed there was ‘no reason’ for the level of the charge and that it was the ‘worst thing’ that could happen to rail freight traffic between France and the UK.

RFF says the charge is being made to pay for security measures around the infrastructure at the French end of the crossing but Gounon says the price level is arbitrary and that he has complained to regulators.

“They could have said €500 or €900. There is no link to their expenses. I claim to the French regulator and have stated that this is unfair and I will continue to claim that this should not be paid by the operators. I don’t know if I will be successful but it is unacceptable.

“You have a two-fold impact. You have the direct impact of the cost but also on top of that you have it falling on 1 January without explanation. That creates a lack or predictability which makes operators very uncomfortable.

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