Channel Tunnel operator deep in red as pandemic hits passenger numbers

The operator of the Channel Tunnel link between France and the UK has reported a 2020 net loss of €113 million due to the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit, but said it was confident in the future.

Channel Tunnel operator deep in red as pandemic hits passenger numbers
The Channel Tunnel has seen a big fall on apssengers numbers due to the pandemic and Brexit. Photo: AFP

Getlink, formerly known as Eurotunnel, reported a 2019 net profit of €159 million.

Revenues were down 25 percent at €816 million last year, with Eurostar passenger services badly hit by the pandemic restrictions and the fallout from Brexit.

Operating profit — the company’s preferred measure — plunged 41 percent to €328 million, an amount described as still “very substantial.”

The company said it had not “burned through cash,” and had also managed to reduce debt during the crisis.

CEO Yann Leriche said the company had put in a “solid” performance in exceptional circumstances caused by the pandemic and Brexit.

“We have no doubt that the rebound will be rapid as soon as restrictions are lifted and that the situation will improve, notably thanks to vaccination,” he added.

The company did not make specific forecasts for 2021, citing a lack of visibility on the outlook.

Leriche noted that the British government’s announcement on Monday that it would review travel restrictions on May 17th had sparked an immediate increase in bookings – although strict limits on travel to France remain.

The company said it would resume paying shareholders a dividend, “a signal” of its confidence in the future of the business.

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Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

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The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.