Eurotunnel has asked the French and British Governments to pay it almost €10m (£7m) to cover the cost of the extra measures it has been forced to take over the migrant crisis in Calais.
The fixed-link tunnel operator said it had spent €13m on additional security in the first half of this year, which is the same as it spent in the whole of 2014.
“Public authorities underestimate the migrant situation,” its chief executive, Jacques Gounon, said.
“There are more migrants in the Calais area than the public forces are recognising. I think more than 5,000, something like that.”
He said the UK government had already agreed to reimburse €4.7m, and the company has asked the Intergovernmental Commission, the joint French and British body which oversees safety and security aspects of the tunnel, for a further €9.7m.
Mr Gounon said: “We have a huge mechanism to look at trucks, in order to be sure there are no migrants and I would say that regarding the UK side we are safe on this topic. It’s quite clear that this does not damage our frequency, which is our key differentiation factor to the maritime competition.”
Eurotunnel added: “The increase in pressure from migrants in Calais led to disruption to services during June and could lead to further disruptions to traffic and to additional security expenditure in the second half of the year.”
The €14.4m of claims is higher than the €13m Eurotunnel has spent on extra fencing, staff, cameras and other security features because it includes some €1.4m paid in compensation, largely to tourist passengers, so far.
A spokesman said: “It looks as though the authorities have been caught by surprise – migrant numbers have gone up from 600 to 5,000 since the start of the year – and we are having to spend our own money on extra measures.”
Eurotunnel had to resort to claiming money from the Intergovernmental Commission back in 2001-02 when the Sangatte migrant crisis was at its peak.
The situation has been exacerbated by striking ferry workers in Calais, who have blocked autoroutes and even the entrance to the tunnel.
Despite the disruption, Eurotunnel turned in a first-half profit after tax of €39m against a loss of €5m a year earlier. Operating profits were up €23m at €170m, and revenues 9 per cent higher at €649m.
Mr Gounon said: “We are confident that this positive trend will continue through the second part of the year.
“At the same time, we continue to invest in the quality of service of our rolling motorway so that we will be ready to transport two million trucks in 2020.”
Eurotunnel carried 752,000 trucks in the first half of the year, and 1.16 million cars.Reuse content