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Mounting losses for Channel Tunnel operators as travel bans and Brexit hit business

Getlink, the operator of the Channel Tunnel link between France and Britain, reported on Thursday deepening losses in the first half of the year as Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic hit traffic flows hard.

Mounting losses for Channel Tunnel operators as travel bans and Brexit hit business
Photo: Christophe Petit Tesson/AFP

Revenues came in at €326 million in the first six months of this year, a drop of 12 percent from the same period last year when Covid-19 first hit. That is a 38-percent drop from the pre-pandemic level in 2019.

Net losses swelled to €123 million, compared to €88 million in the first six months of last year.

That also surpassed the €113-million loss it suffered in 2020 as a whole.

The company said the results reflected “the effects of the pandemic as well as by the new administrative formalities for Brexit.”

It said traffic by high-speed Eurostar train service was “severely disrupted as a result of government travel restrictions” as were other passenger services through the tunnel.

Eurostar services suffered a 96 percent drop in traffic from the 2019 pre-pandemic level to just over 200,000 passengers.

Eurostar had been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, but secured a €290 million bailout in May.

The decline in car traffic was 78 percent and coach traffic 87 percent.

Meanwhile, the company said lorry traffic, which was “impacted over the first three months of the year due to stockpiling before the end of the (Brexit) transition period at the end of December and the adaptation to new administrative formalities, picked up in the second quarter.”

Lorry traffic dipped by just 3 percent from the level in the first half of 2020, with a 21 percent drop in the first quarter followed by a 23 percent gain. It was still down 20 percent from the pre-pandemic level in the first half of 2019, however.

The company said it was impossible to provide any performance forecasts “as long as the governments fail to take a stable long-term position on international travel restrictions”.

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STRIKES

UPDATE: French air traffic controllers cancel strike action in September

The main union representing French air traffic controllers has cancelled calls for a strike from September 28th to 30th, after "reaching an agreement with their supervisory ministry."

UPDATE: French air traffic controllers cancel strike action in September

SNCTA, the main union for air traffic controllers said this week that they had lifted their calls for a three-day strike at the end of September after coming to an agreement with France Ministry of Transport. 

In a statement on its website, the SNCTA said “In view of the concrete progress made on the demands, the SNCTA is lifting its [strike] notice for September 28th, 29th and 30th. The strong mobilisation of September 16th was necessary and instrumental for reaching this conciliation in a very constrained calendar. Thank you to all of you!” 

The French ministry of transport has not yet commented on the above agreement or lifting of the strike.

The International Air Transport Association tweeted their support for the SNCTA’s decision to cancel further industrial action, calling Friday’s strike “unnecessary.”

The association also urged the European Union to implement a “Single European Sky.” This reform, which was put forward almost 20 years ago, has not yet reached fruition. It intends to shift the current system of air traffic organisation away from national borders and toward a “coherent zone” in order to reduce emissions and save both time and money.

The strike on September 16th left over 1,000 flights in France grounded, as well as widespread delays and over 2,400 flight cancellations across Europe. 

The SNCTA mobilised for wage increases due to the rising cost of living, in addition to an acceleration of recruitment in order to anticipate a wave of retirements. After Friday’s action, the union had called for further strikes from September 28th to 30th before reaching an agreement with their supervisory ministry. 

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