Government swerves Eurotunnel coach bookings row

Government skips Eurotunnel coach bookings row

Pressure on Eurotunnel to rethink changes made to its policies around coach bookings continues, although the government has advised one coach business that ministers can do little to influence a change of tack by the Dover to Calais shuttle operator.

Earlier in May, Eurotunnel told the industry that capacity for coaches on shuttles was being reduced, prices for the remaining slots would be increased and that online bookings were being withdrawn. The carrier first cited pressures on space availability and staff resource as the reason, but it quickly acknowledged that more complicated border requirements brought about by the UK’s exit from the EU were also central to its decision.

In response to worries raised via the unnamed coach operator’s MP, Minister of State for Transport Wendy Morton notes concerns around Eurotunnel’s conduct raised and says that Department for Transport (DfT) officials “will continue to engage with Eurotunnel” on pricing and other matters as part of a regular dialogue.

However, she adds that pricing “is ultimately a commercial decision for Eurotunnel.” Ms Morton notes that some blame for the changes lies with P&O Ferries and its decision in March to make almost 800 staff redundant. That has temporarily constrained cross-channel capacity, although it is slowly returning. It is understood that some coach operators have already returned to ferry bookings and written off Eurotunnel as a potential carrier.

While Ms Morton’s letter will be disappointing, the Confederation of Passenger Transport has confirmed that it is lobbying to raise awareness of the issue among DfT officials. CEO Graham Vidler has described Eurotunnel’s decision as showing “a total disregard for coach passengers” and one that “flies in the face of environmental policies on both sides of the channel.”

Mr Vidler adds that he will be raising the matter with Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps during week commencing 16 May. CPT is also seeking a meeting with Eurotunnel senior management to make the coach industry’s case for a rethink. However, the carrier earlier said that it is possible that the scope of the restrictions could be extended or even made permanent.