A perfect storm for passengers over the Christmas and New Year holiday as operators get their heads around new identity checks, the Calais migrant crisis threatens to spread and new emissions rules force up the price of – all – tickets.
Passengers crossing to the Continent might want to leave extra time over the Christmas and New Year period as operators experiment with new ‘exit checks’.
Time-consuming identity checks on travellers leaving the country are one of three challenges facing cross-Channel passengers into 2015.
The others are the risk of the Calais migrant crisis spreading, and all-round fare increases due to new regulations on ships’ emissions.
The first two had a detailed examination at last month’s UK Parliament Home Affairs Select Committee.
The British government wants to bring in exit checks in April to ‘make it much harder for offenders to flee British justice and to better identify those who are in the UK illegally.’
Operators told MPs they were unhappy that the onus was on them to design, set up, operate and pay for new IT systems to report the information, and about whether they could be ready in time.
There were also concerned about the impact on passenger through-flow at ports because of potentially long-winded enhanced checks.
Eurotunnel’s John Keefe told MPs trials would start in December. A tweet from @LeShuttle on Thursday said the exit check trial had now started.
@LeShuttle has also warned on several occasions since that ‘some passengers’ faced a thirty minute delay though it is not clear if this connected with the trial.
The UK Chamber of Shipping told MPs the Port of Dover would start its own trials in January.
The hearing also heard concerns that security fencing currently being installed around the main access roads in and out of Calais port – to keep attempted illegal immigrants away from queuing vehicles – would just displace the problem to other ports.
Earlier this week a Dutch transport union complained about ‘a wave of stowaways moving north via Zeebrugge in Belgium to Hoek van Holland near Rotterdam’ says DutchNews.nl.
Members of the Select Committee visited Calais earlier this month to see the situation for themselves. Their report will be published before Christmas.
Meanwhile, the European Commission has hit back at Daily Mail claims that new clean fuel regulations would see ferry fares rise by 30% in January.
From the beginning of 2015, shipping operators must use more expensive low-sulphur fuel in most EU waters.
The Commission said ‘the costings were based on far higher fuel prices than currently pertain’.
Freight customers have previously been told by at least two operators to expect rate rises of 15% next year.
However, Freightex said this week, ‘Although ferry rates will be going up in January due to EU sulphur emission regulations… we won’t be putting up prices in the New Year because the recent fall in fuel prices offsets the increase in ferry rates.’
Even if record low oil prices soften or absorb the costs of the new low-sulphur regulations in the short term, should ferry fares rise in the future Eurotunnel told @DriveEurope earlier this year it would also increase ticket prices to maintain its ‘premium pricing structure’.