Eurotunnel 2023 coach prices: Ferries back in favour?

Ferries like to dominate cross-channel coach traffic in 2023

Ferries are likely to account for most cross-channel coach traffic in 2023, one operator familiar with continental work sector has predicted. 

Parrys International Managing Director Dave Parry was responding to the publication by Eurotunnel of its coach rate calendar for next year. That has seen prices increase substantially from 2022 and the withdrawal of ‘short stay’ returns. All legs are now priced as singles at up to £1,100 on peak days. 

Mr Parry adds that despite release of the calendar, it remains impossible to make coach bookings far enough in advance. While it is understood that Eurotunnel hopes to improve that horizon soon, a lack of forward visibility is the biggest problem, he continues.

Eurotunnel price hikes make coach position clear

“I am sure that the majority of coach crossings [in 2023] will be by ferry,” Mr Parry adds. An increase in overall ferry capacity, along with greater certainty over crossings, makes that mode more attractive. The move to increase rates on Eurotunnel follows its imposition during the summer of limits on the number of coaches that could be carried, with a suggestion of such a measure becoming permanent. 

Confederation of Passenger Transport Coaching Manager Phil Smith agrees with Mr Parry. He says that discussions with other operators suggest that ferries will see most cross-channel coach business, although Mr Smith adds that Eurotunnel may remain the only option for operators that are time-constrained.

Coaches likely to use ferries cross channel in 2023
High prices for coach bookings on Eurotunnel and a lack of clarity around availability will see operators favour ferries, Dave Parry says

Removal of ‘short stay’ returns by Eurotunnel will almost treble the cost of crossing by train on day trips and weekend tours in some circumstances.

As an example, a one- or two-day return this year at the second-lowest tariff costs £526, but the same journey as two single legs will be £1,500 in 2023. 

“Ferries are proving a lot more attractive to coach operators unless they are highly constrained by time,” explains Mr Smith. “Discussions with Eurotunnel suggest that it is cautious about the number of coaches it can handle because of the planned introduction of the EU’s Entry/Exit Scheme in May 2023, but that leaves coaches as the most disadvantaged vehicle class for crossings.”

FlixBus criticises Eurotunnel coach policy as ferries prominent

FlixBus says that it is “carefully considering all ferry and Eurotunnel options for crossing the Channel.”

However, in a thinly veiled rebuke of Eurotunnel, the scheduled service provider says the ongoing position has “discouraged sustainable collective travel by raising prices significantly and limiting availability for coaches, despite being the most environmentally friendly option.” That has forced FlixBus “to increase our use of ferries this year.”

Like-for-like prices of Eurotunnel single legs for coaches will increase by between 50-67% in 2023, depending on band.