LONDON – Truck traffic on the rail tunnel beneath the English Channel has hit an all-time high this year despite disruptions caused by the migrant crisis at the France port of Calais.
Groupe Eurotunnel said its rail shuttle had transported almost 1.65 million trucks in both directions by midnight Tuesday, which is “the highest level of traffic generated since the start of commercial services and has been achieved more than a week before the year end.”
Eurotunnel said truck traffic was buoyed by a new security fence around its terminal in France that was installed in October to prevent migrants and refugees trying to board its U.K.-bound trains.
Eurotunnel’s truck volume shrank by 27 percent in the third quarter as it was forced to periodically suspend services after migrants boarded trucks and trains and sometimes broke into the tunnel on foot.
The Paris-based company said the “extraordinary” increase in truck traffic reflects the competitive advantage of its shuttle service compared to ferries with its high frequency, 24 hours a day.
Eurotunnel is re-focusing on its rail/truck business after U.K. regulators ordered it to cease its ferry operation, which had boosted its total cross-Channel market share to a dominant 55 percent and threatened to drive up freight rates and one of its rivals off the sea route.
The company has ordered three new truck shuttles, which will increase capacity by 20 percent from the end of 2016.
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