Will we ever see Eurostar’s Channel Tunnel monopoly end?

I wonder it we will ever see an alternative to Eurostar providing all passenger rail services through the Channel Tunnel?

I had great hopes that DB might provide some competition after the company brought an ICE train to St Pancras. But that was back in 2010 and the idea seems dead now.

I can’t see much encouragement coming from the European Commission’s decision to allow French state railway SNCF to take control of Eurostar following the British government’s sale of its 40% share. SNCF’s takeover does come with conditions which include it offering Eurostar peak paths to new entrants on a “fair and non-discriminatory” basis if those new entrants cannot gain paths through the usual procedures.

DB never even got as far as bidding for paths, having become stymied in the safety processes surrounding the Channel Tunnel itself. These processes are also under French state control, hence my scepticism that a second operator while ever be permitted to run international trains to and from London using the tunnel.

I have no problem with prospective operators having to demonstrate that their trains will be sufficiently safe to use the tunnel. I just wish that road hauliers were subject to a similarly strict regime, given that it has been burning lorries that have caused all the major damage to the tunnel since it opened in May 1994.

This article first appeared in RAIL 775, published in May 2015.

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Philip Haigh

Freelance railway writer, former deputy editor at RAIL magazine - news, views and analysis of today's railway.

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