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Eurotunnel Shuttle demand nears peak

Demand for Eurotunnel's car Shuttle service was almost back to its 1996 peak last month, as soaring numbers of British holiday-makers took advantage of the strong pound and the operations recovered from last year's disastrous fire.

Eurotunnel said 227,810 vehicles used the Le Shuttle Tourist service, just below the 234,393 a year ago. It means that so far this year more than a million vehicles have used the car Shuttle, with many also attracted by the continuing price war with the ferries.

Though car operations resumed last December, a month after the fire closed one of the two train tunnels, they did not return to full strength until the spring. The damaged tunnel finally re-opened on 15 May, though Eurotunnel's figures yesterday showed its share of the total cross-Channel car market, at 37 per cent, was still well below last year's 50 per cent peak. "The whole market has expanded this year with the pound looking so strong at the moment," a Eurotunnel spokeswoman said.

The tunnel also carried 36,491 lorries in July, the first full month since freight services resumed in June, though lower than the 54,000 trucks last year.

The biggest increase was in Eurostar rail passengers, up 24 per cent between June and July to 651,849, against 529,330 in July 1996. In the first seven months of the year nearly 3.5 million passengers have used Eurostar services.