Eurotunnel prepares to put fares up

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The Independent Online
Eurotunnel yesterday forecast that fares on cross-Channel routes would rise by up to 10 per cent next year, buoyed by the imminent approval for the P&O-Stena ferry merger which is expected to lead to cuts in capacity and firmer prices.

The forecast came as the Channel Tunnel operator announced that it had fully recovered from last November's fire on board a freight shuttle, with traffic numbers slightly up on their levels a year ago.

Bill Dix, Eurotunnel's commercial director, said he expected its fares to rise by 5-10 per cent next summer - increasing the price of a standard pounds 169 return car journey by up to pounds 17. He also forecast that some of the excessive fare promotions of last summer, such as trips across the Channel for pounds 1, would disappear. Eurotunnel is due to unveil its new fare structure in mid-December.

Turnover in the third quarter was up marginally on a currency-adjusted basis to pounds 132m and Eurotunnel said it was on course to meet or exceed its target of a pounds 54m operating profit before interest charges for the full year.

Last month the tunnel carried 242,345 cars against 241,273 in October 1996, giving it a market share of 45 per cent. Mr Dix said it was on course to reach 50 per cent. Eurostar meanwhile carried 516,000 passengers in October compared with a little over 498,000 a year ago.

Eurotunnel regained market leadership on the Dover-Folkestone-Calais freight market with a 32 per cent share although lorry numbers are still down on a year ago. Eurotunnel plans to start running three additional freight shuttles next September, increasing its capacity by 25 per cent.

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