Eurotunnel demands probe after shares plunge

Channel Tunnel train operator Eurotunnel is demanding an investigation after claiming an order by the European Commission to cut its charges, saw a whopping €500 million knocked off its market value.

Eurotunnel demands probe after shares plunge
Eurotunnel, which the EU Commission believes is charging passengers too much. Photo: Hakzelf/flickr

On Thursday the European Commission told Eurotunnel, which operates the undersea tunnel between France and England, to cut its charges for passenger and freight trains using the route.

The Commission argued that the charges were too high and were discouraging the development of rail traffic and particularly the movement of freight.

Analysts said that this pressure, if realised, would weigh on the company's profits.

The price of shares in Eurotunnel fell by 12.27 percent on Thursday and by 6.46 percent on Friday to 5.13 euros on the Paris stock market.

Eurotunnel chief executive Jacques Gounon announced that the company would ask for an investigation, in a letter to shareholders and published on the company's website.

He said that "five hundred million euros ($656 million) of value was destroyed in two days after the publication last Thursday during stock market trading hours of a press statement by the European Commission concerning, among other things, tariffs for the Channel tunnel."

Gounon said that press reports about this had been published "even before the statement was made".

The company would therefore ask market authorities in France and Britain, where the company is also listed, to check that privileged information published in the press and on social networks "even before the European Commission's statement was published" did not involve "breaches of stock market law."

Gounon objected that the reports had been published before Eurotunnel was aware of the Commission's statement.

The Commission also ruled that Eurotunnel had to end an arrangement whereby it allocated opportunities to use the tunnel to certain rail companies, in France the SNCF, for 65 years.

The two countries now have two months in which two respond to the Commission's ruling. If they do not do so, the Commission may then seize the EU Court of Justice which has the power to impose financial penalties.

Eurotunnel's move is based on a requirement, particularly on the London stock market, that certain types of regulatory information be made available equitably to a wide audience, and usually outside trading hours.

The improper use of such privileged and regulatory information can constitute an offence of insider trading.

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French rail passengers must now pay for ticket changes

From now on passengers on French trains will have to pay for last-minute changes to their tickets.

French rail passengers must now pay for ticket changes
Photo: AFP

The days of being able to make last minute changes to your train journeys in France free of charge are over.

From May 1st rail operator SNCF has implemented a change to their ticket cancellation and changes policy which will bring an end to a system whereby passengers could make last-minute changes for no fee.

Changes can still be made free of charge up to 30 days before the date of travel but after this deadline passengers will have cough up a €5 surcharge to change their tickets.

That charge will rise to 40 percent of the cost of the ticket if changes are made within 24 hours of the scheduled travel time.

However there will be maximum fees of €15 set for TGV trains and €12 for Intercité trains, per journey, so a change to both legs of the journey could cost up to €30, if made at the last minute.

SNCF claims the aim is not just to make money out of passengers but to try and increase the occupancy of their long distance services, which for the TGV high speed trains only stands at 65 percent.

The rail operator wants to discourage the practice of people buying cheap tickets well in advance but then making last minute changes, which has left them with seats becoming free at the last minute, but too late for them to sell on.

Bosses say the introduction of surcharges will allow them to offer discount tickets closer to the travel date.

For those with SNCF discount cards such as for young people or pensioners, however, the penalties will be less as they.

Holders will still be able to cancel their tickets up to two days before travel without having to pay a penalty. Professional customers will also keep the perk.