00.01 FRIDAY 4 MARCH 2005


A Lords report urges the UK and French Governments to work together to ensure fairer access to the Channel Tunnel for all rail freight operators.

The report − Liberalising Rail Freight Movement in the EU − examined the operation of rail freight through the Channel Tunnel currently dominated by UK company EWS in partnership with SNCF France.

The Chairman of the Committee, Lord Woolmer of Leeds, said:

"The Channel Tunnel should be one of the main arteries for moving rail freight between the UK and the rest of Europe. It's not."

"It's running disastrously below its potential capacity. Despite initial forecasts that it would be moving 10 million tonnes of rail freight per year, only 2 million passed through the Tunnel last year − just 3 per cent of all cross channel freight."

"The present financial arrangements to use the Tunnel for rail freight are stifling competition and are not in the long-term interests of the British economy."

"It's absolutely essential that transparent and competitive access conditions are established without further delay."

"We also recommend that regular consideration should be given to the licensing of additional models of locomotives for use in the Tunnel."

The report analysed the EU's rail freight industry. It examined Commission plans to help the sector tackle problems so it can improve its performance and increase its share of the freight market.

The Committee has concerns about the Commission's latest plans.

  • It urges the UK Government to continue to resist the requirement of a full international rail drivers' licence for all train drivers.

  • Compulsory compensation to rail freight customers for poor quality service is supported providing customers can opt out if they wish.


1. The members of European Union Sub-Committee B (Internal Market) who conducted this inquiry were:

Baroness Cohen of Pimlico

Baroness Eccles of Moulton

Lord Fearn

Lord Geddes

Lord Haskel

Lord St John of Bletso

Lord Shutt of Greetland

Lord Swinfen

Lord Walpole

Lord Woolmer of Leeds (Chairman)

2. The report is published by the Stationery Office: Liberalising Rail Freight Movement in the EU, Lords Select Committee on the European Union, 4th Report, Session 200405, HL Paper 52, ISBN 010 400626 9, price £20.00. The full text of the report will be available on the internet via shortly after publication.

3. The Commission argue that an international rail drivers' licence would remove the need to change drivers at international borders. While this may have advantages, the Directive appears to imply that all rail freight drivers − even those who only drive domestic freight trains − will have to have an international licence.

4. Rail freight has steadily lost its market share in moving freight in Western Europe over the last 20 years. Market share dropped from 20.1 per cent in 1970 to 8.1 per cent in 2000 in the 15 European Union Member States.

5. Rail freight in Great Britain has grown considerably since privatisation. There are four competing UK rail freight companies − English Welsh and Scottish Railways (EWS), Freightliner, Direct Rail Services and GB Railfreight.

6. For more details about the Commission's three major railway proposals (or packages) see paragraphs 16, 17 and 18 of the Report.

7. Chapter 7 outlines the Committees 16 recommendations.

Further information from:

  • Anna Murphy

Clerk of the Committee, on 020 7219 5864

  • Jillian Bailey

Press and Publicity Officer (Committees), on 020 7219 8659