COMMENT: MyFerryLink deserves a chance to go it alone. Let customers decide who wins the battle across the Dover Strait.
NEWS: Transalpina beset by corruption woes. Col de Madeleine has reopened. A setback for Grand Tour 2014. Port of Dover tries to improve relations with the local community. Don’t throw fag butts out of the window in Switzerland. Electronic tolls are big, big business, and wildboar are spotted in Belgrade city centre.
GIBRALTAR QUEUE WATCH: one hour delay late morning then 1h30 in the evening.
Comment: MYFERRYLINK DESERVES A CHANCE TO GO IT ALONE
Let customers decide who wins the battle across the Dover Strait
Blowing in the wind. Having spoken to both sides – Eurotunnel and the Competition authorities – we unfortunately find ourselves agreeing with whoever we are talking to at the time. On the face of it, it is almost sinister that Eurotunnel would want to own a ferry operator. Having failed to see off its competition by fair means in the last twenty years it has now resorted to the foul.
On the other hand, the more ferry operators running between Dover and Calais the better in terms of lower prices and more frequent services. The Competition and Market Authority (formerly the Competition Commission) argues that the situation is unsustainable but even it accepts that the market is growing faster than anybody anticipated.
That puts into even sharper relief the one point missing so far in this highly legalistic debate, how important the short crossing to France is to UK PLC. Major delays happen quite regularly, either due to the weather or technical problems. Neither the boats nor trains can cope at the moment when the other goes wrong. Quite apart from how frustrating it is for tourists, what about the cost to hauliers and business in general?
Latterly however it’s the artificial restrictions that trouble us most. Having established itself very quickly, and grown at an impressive rate, MyFerryLink surely has a fighting chance of finding new backing. But it is prevented from doing so, both by the French competition authorities – which has barred Eurotunnel from selling the ferries until 2017 – and now by the CMA too which says the search for new financing would take too long.
There have been many loud and learned voices involved in the row over the future of MyFerryLink. The one conspicuously lacking so far belongs to customers. Surely this is one of those situations best left to the market to decide?
More: see the latest on the Competition and Markets Authority investigation here.
update 27 May – the UK-Continent ferry routes were the fastest growing sector of the industry so far this year says the Discover Ferries trade association. Passenger numbers grew by 4.1% to 4.45 million in the first four months of 2014 according to new figures. Meanwhile, an infographic from Freightlink points out freight units passing through major UK ports grew by 7% in 2013.
update 28 May – MyFerryLink has called the independence of the Competition and Markets Authority into question after alleging one of the CMA auditors was previously employed by a consultancy which had DFDS as a client says Lloyd’s List.
update 28 May – Eurotunnel will complain to Brussels if the DFDS operated Newhaven-Dieppe route continues to be subsidised says a report in The Argus. The route is anyway under doubt as French local authorities have contributed £190m in the last ten years and are reluctant to pay more. Also, a recent retendering failed to agree a deal with any operator.
roundup: FRANCE. D213 Col de Madeleine, just off the N90 near Aigueblanche in the Savoy south east France, has opened for the summer says @ANWBEuropa. A lot of interesting rounds around here – check out the D77b ‘Lacets de Montvernier’ off the A43 near Saint Jean de Maurienne. UK. An embarrassing court case in London for the organiser of Grand Tour 2014. DOVER. ‘The Port of Dover is to recruit its first Community Director to improve relations between the town and Harbour Board,’ reports @BBCSimonJones. SWITZERLAND. Throwing a fag butt out of his car window earned a man a 40CHF (€32) fine in Bern canton last week. Such fines can be even higher in other parts of the country says thelocal.ch. Meanwhile controversial former cycling star Jan Ullrich caused a three car smash in Thurgau on Monday with allegations that alcohol may have been involved. TOLLS. The global market for electronic tolls is expected to reach $9.5bn by 2020, growing at an average 11.1% per year between now and then says a new report.