Eurostar, the high-speed rail service which connects Britain with France and Belgium via the Channel Tunnel may lower its ticket prices if Eurotunnel agrees to lower their charges, the train operator’s chief has confirmed in an interview.
The comments come following increasing pressure from the European Commission over “excessive pricing” for crossing the tunnel by train.
In June the EU told Britain and France to act to bring down charges for trains running via the under-sea Channel tunnel, saying both passengers and freight operators were paying too much.
And if the countries fail to come up with a solution by August 20th they could incur the wrath of the European Court of Justice.
In March Eurostar appealed to Eurotunnel for more “transparency” with regard to costs and charges, but, according to Petrovic, they have yet to get a response.
“We’ve been asking for more transparency for years from Eurotunnel, without getting a response,” Petrovic told French daily Les Échos in an interview on Sunday. “Today, the question of charges, which amount to €50 per passenger for a return ticket, that is, 25 percent of the price of the ticket, is becoming critical for our strategy and development.”
At a European committee meeting earlier this month, Eurotunnel said that lowering prices would change the “economic equation” and would lead to employees losing their jobs.
But Petrovic denied that this was the case, telling the paper: “Our proposal is not to put Eurotunnel and its employees in danger. But currently only half the capacity of the tunnel is being used. Increasing traffic would lead to an increase in revenue which would compensate for the lowering of fees.”
This opinion was seconded by EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas last month who said in a statement: "The Channel Tunnel is not being used to its full capacity because of these excessive charges.”
Meanwhile, Eurostar has ambitions to expand its network and connect London with more far-flung destinations including Holland, Germany and Switzerland.
“That’s where Eurostar can grow,” said Petrovic, “but only with the politics of competitive pricing, which is very difficult to establish with the current level of charges.”
Despite complaints over Eurotunnel's charges, 2013 has been a successful year for Eurostar. According to La Tribune, traffic has increased by two percent with 4.9 passengers, leading to a seven percent increase in turnover.
Do you think Eurostar is too expensive? Let us know in the comments below.