ACCORDING to Bill Dix, Managing Director of Eurotunnel Freight Solutions, by 2007 his company could be in partnerships running regular intermodal services between the UK and up to 10 European countries. Conventional rail freight through the Channel Tunnel has fallen far below expectations, in marked contrast to Eurotunnel’s lorry shuttles, for which Dix was responsible for several years. Around 1·2 million lorries now carry 14 million tonnes of freight a year through the Tunnel.

Dix says that there are 315000 standard shuttle paths a year through the Tunnel, of which 150000 are unused. The national railways of France and Britain secured 100000 of these under the 1987 Minimum Usage Agreement, leaving 50000 unoccupied. Eurotunnel believes that these could be used by intermodal freight trains to and from the UK that would initially use a terminal located on Eurotunnel property at Cheriton. From 2007 there would be access to north and east London via the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, opening up the opportunity to develop traffic to destinations such as Dagenham.

The whole concept is predicated on open access operations in France. Transport Minister Gilles de Robien assured us earlier this year that ’open access will be possible’, but we see precious little evidence of it so far. We wish Dix and Eurotunnel good luck.