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Eurotunnel confirms depth of through rail freight decline

In Q1 2016 the number of through rail freight trains year on year fell by 44% from 787 to 442, with tonnage down by 41% to 265,041 tonnes
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Intermodal operators increasingly avoided the fixed link and opted for other routes, typically rail to Continental ports such as Zeebrugge, Moerdijk and Rotterdam for onward ro-ro or lo-lo shipment to UK ports and then road delivery to UK customers.

"Through tunnel rail freight was the traffic most affected by the migrant crisis as a result of the difficulties experienced in securing the SNCF yard at Calais-Fréthun and lost half of its customers and services to other routes during the autumn of 2015," noted Groupe Eurotunnel SA (GETSA) in its Q1 2016 results report. "[We are] working with all parties concerned to relaunch traffic now that the tracks are once again secure."

GETSA's shuttle freight services hit an all-time quarterly record of 410,729 trucks, 10% ahead of Q1 2015 and 6% above the previous record quarter, Q4 2014. Its "Le Shuttle" passenger car and coach services carried more than 0.5M cars, up 8% year on year. Overall shuttle service revenues increased by 13% to €135.5M.

Through rail passenger services operated by Eurostar carried slightly fewer passengers, 2.2M.

On GETSA's own rail freight side, its Europorte arm logged almost unchanged revenues of €72.6M. Europorte's Socorail affiliate won new tenders to operate in-port rail services for the seaports of Nantes-St Nazaire and La Rochelle for another five years, while the British affiliate, GB Railfreight, won a 5-year contract with generator Drax for biomass, and it now also operates the "Caledonian Sleeper" (passenger service). The Drax deal has enabled it to compensate for the reduction in coal transport linked to the increase in Carbon Tax in the UK in 2015. On the down side, Europore has had difficulty obtaining paths from SNCF Réseau to develop car transportation services for customers.

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