The House of Lords European Union Committee has reported its findings on the future potential of the Channel Tunnel in its report on the Channel Tunnel and the European Rail Network: Tunnel vision? Completing the European rail market.
The Channel Tunnel's full potential is yet to be unlocked , says the House of Lords Internal Market, Energy and Transport EU Sub-Committee today, in its report on the Channel Tunnel and the European Rail Network, Tunnel Vision? Completing the European Rail Market.
Focusing particularly on the Channel Tunnel’s role in connecting the passenger and freight rail network in Europe, the Committee’s seven-month long inquiry has heard from a variety of rail experts including the Chief Executive of Eurostar, representatives from Eurotunnel and Deutsche Bahn and Transport Minister Theresa Villiers MP.
The key recommendations from the committee are:
- The EU should ensure the full implementation of the Railway Packages in all Member States, to ensure fair access for all
- The terms of the Treaty of Canterbury (the agreement that allowed the Channel Tunnel's construction) should be reviewed, in order to move towards direct governance of the Tunnel by the UK and French national regulators
- Safety standards used across the EU should apply in full in the Tunnel - it is not a unique safety case and does not require unique standards
- Access charges should be reviewed and reduced, to ensure a better deal for operators and passengers
- Border controls should be examined and streamlined, to encourage new international services to be developed
- Priority for EU funding for rail infrastructure should be given to projects contributing to economic growth at a critical time for the Union, with conditions attached to ensure that new rail developments ensure fair access and are compatible with rail networks across the EU
- Consumer interests must be paramount. Member States must increase the importance and awareness of passenger rights, and ensure that tickets can be booked conveniently and in an integrated way to allow for easier and less bureaucratic international train travel.
Comment from the Chairman
Committee Chairman, Baroness O’Cathain, said:
"Although the planned Deutsche Bahn services from Frankfurt and Amsterdam will result in greater connectivity between the UK and the rest of Europe, there remain many obstacles in the way of an open and less bureaucratic travelling experience for both rail passengers and freight operators.
The costs of using the tunnel need to be reduced, the arrangements for purchasing tickets to travel on trains across Europe need to be easier and the interests of passengers must be placed at the very heart of services.
If we are to reach our goal of encouraging less people to fly short distances and for more passengers to 'let the train take the strain', then we must work together to ensure that travelling by rail becomes easier, cheaper and more comfortable than other modes of travel. The recommendations that the Committee make will go a long way towards unlocking the full potential of the Channel Tunnel and the access it allows UK passengers – and businesses - to the rest of Europe."