Sealink changes ferry fare structure: Reshuffle to compete with Channel tunnel's imminent passenger service

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The Independent Online
STENA Sealink, one of the two main cross-Channel ferry operators, yesterday announced an overhaul of its fare structure and increased frequencies to compete with the Channel tunnel.

Sealink's traditional system of price bands linked to sailing times is being abandoned in favour of a single price according to the season with supplements for weekend sailings.

Although the new system could theoretically produce fare savings of up to pounds 60 on last year's published tariffs, a Sealink spokesman said the overall effect would be to increase fares by 3 per cent.

The price of a standard return for a car and up to five passengers on the Dover-Calais route will start at pounds 126 in the low season, rising to pounds 188 in mid-season and pounds 220 in the high season between 8 July and 4 September. There will be a pounds 100 supplement on weekend sailings in the high season.

Sealink also plans to introduce another ferry on the Calais route, increasing the number of peak season sailings from 18 to 25 a day.

Eurotunnel, which announces its fare structure next Tuesday and starts passenger services in May, is expected to charge between pounds 160 and pounds 260 for a return journey on Le Shuttle depending on the season.

Shares in Eurotunnel continued their surge, closing 14p higher at 644p.

But shares in P&O, the other main ferry operator, fell 12p amid expectations it would be forced to reshape its fare structure and cut prices to compete with Sealink.

A P&O spokesman said that Sealink's initiative could backfire. 'We have been discussing whether or not to abandon the price bands and go for a season pattern. But when we made the calculations we saw that the effects on passenger revenue would be horrendous,' he said.

Meanwhile Eurotunnel announced that lorry drivers travelling on freight shuttles will be served complimentary meals. Freight services begin on 7 March.

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