The European Union accused Eurotunnel of charging “excessive” rates for trucks and freight trains to use its sub-sea link between the UK and France.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive, gave the UK and France, which jointly regulate Eurotunnel, two months to respond to its demand for lower freight and passenger charges, or face possible legal action.
The EU says access charges for trains using the tunnel are much higher than they need to be, and utilization of the tunnel is less than it should be because of the high costs.
“The Channel Tunnel is not being used to its full capacity because of these excessive charges,” said European transport commissioner Slim Kallas. The Commission estimates that 43 percent of the tunnel’s capacity is currently unused.
The Commission also ruled that an agreement that reserves 50 percent of freight traffic for DB Schenker, the logistics unit of Germany’s Deutsche Bahn, for 65 years, breaches EU rules because it is too long.
There is a similar agreement reserving 50 percent of passenger traffic to SNCF, France’s state-owned railway.
Paris-based Eurotunnel said its charges are “transparent and not excessive” and notes that Deutsche Bahn and several rail freight companies are planning to launch services through the tunnel.
The EU’s action comes two weeks after UK regulators said Eurotunnel must abandon its new roll-on, roll-off cross Channel service between Dover and Calais because it would increase its market share above 50 percent and result in higher freight rates and passenger fares.
Eurotunnel, which entered the shipping market last year with the $100 million acquisition of three vessels from SeaFrance, a bankrupt French ferry operator, is appealing the ruling.