Departures: Tunnel visions

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The Independent Travel
P & O European Ferries' decision to end its Dover-Boulogne ferry service this week indicates how the ferry companies plan to meet the Channel tunnel challenge. They appear to be taking seriously Eurotunnel's most recent announcement that the link will open this December.

P & O and Stena Sealink - whose Folkestone-Boulogne service closed a year ago - have clearly decided the best way to compete with the tunnel is to consolidate resources on Dover- Calais, with each line operating a high-frequency shuttle service. Both had hoped they would be allowed to operate a joint service, but the Government has consistently rejected this proposal.

The only car and passenger service to Boulogne is now run by Hoverspeed, which took over the Stena Sealink route. It operates three return SeaCat services a day to Boulogne until 31 March, rising to six in the summer.

While Boulogne has always been the most attractive Channel destination for day-trippers, the frequency of services from Dover to Calais and the shorter crossing time, combined with the direct connection from Calais to the autoroute, have led to Boulogne's decline as a ferry port. But as it is less than 30 minutes by road from Calais, the town should continue to thrive as a tourist destination.

Meanwhile, Hoverspeed (0304 240101) has launched a new French Flyer programme with stand-by cross-Channel trips from Dover to Calais and Folkestone to Boulogne costing from pounds 1 on afternoon services, pounds 4 on morning services.

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