Ferry firms try to pool services

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The Independent Online
STENA Sealink and P&O, two of the largest ferry operators, are again trying to pool services on the Dover to Calais route to counter the threat from the Channel tunnel, writes John Shepherd.

A previous move two years ago was thwarted by the Government, which imposed undertakings preventing the two from co-operating on short sea services to France.

The companies are particularly concerned about the tunnel's potential passenger capacity, which exceeds the combined total of all the ferry operators to France.

P&O, which also tried unsuccessfully to cut the red tape a year ago, said yesterday that co-operation was essential if ferry services were to compete vigorously with the tunnel. Stena has four ferries and P&O has five operating on the Dover-Calais route.

Both companies have written to Sir Bryan Carsberg, Director- General of Fair Trading, to request that the Government lifts the ban on pooling services.

Rudolph Agnew, chairman of Stena Sealink, said: 'The tunnel is being supported directly and indirectly by government, British and French, in both rail and road investment. Simple justice and commercial logic suggest that now is the time to remove the handcuffs.'

Gloom at end of tunnel, page 21