Eurotunnel buys Channel ferries from Sea France

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The Independent Online

For nearly two decades they have been duelling for the fares of passengers crossing from Dover to Calais. But now, following the collapse into administration of the ferries operator Sea France last November, Eurotunnel has declared that it will lend a hand to its struggling rival by buying three of itsferries.

Although Eurotunnel will not be operating the services, the deal could be a lifeline to many of the 880 staff at the stricken firm.

Jacques Gounon, the Eurotunnel chairman and chief executive, has previously said he could rent out the ferries to a workers' co-operative planning a buyout.

Sea France has struggled since the Channel Tunnel opened in 1994.

Figures yesterday showed that a rise in the cost of flying seems to be encouraging Britons to use the Chunnel. Air fares between November and December last year rocketed by 41 per cent, helping Eurotunnel, which manages the Channel Tunnel and carries car and coach passengers and freight lorries, to post a 16 per cent rise in revenues last year to €844.8m (£709.6m).

Passenger shuttle traffic was up 6 per cent as more holidaymakers drove to the Continent.