Channel Tunnel

The terms of access to the Channel Tunnel, and the charges for it, are controlled by the French and British regulatory authorities, ARAFER and the ORR.

The two regulators guarantee transparent terms of access to the cross-border tunnel, which are fair to all railway companies, based on the principles of Directive 2012/34/ EU and the Binational Regulation.

An Anglo-French Permanent Service assesses disputes via the common settlement procedure. Then the Bi-national Committee, with members drawn from the governing bodies of ORR and ARAFER, is responsible for coordinating the process of adopting the opinions and decisions of the two authorities concerning the Fixed Link.

The Channel Fixed Link between the United Kingdom and France consists of two railway tunnels plus a service tunnel, each 50 km long (37 km of which are under the sea).

Regulation of the tunnel

ARAFER and ORR entered into a cooperation agreement on 16 March 2015 to ensure cooperation based on reciprocity, transparency, and trust.

The cooperation agreement aims to define the broad lines of coordinated and effective cooperation between the two authorities, with a view to ensuring the economic regulation of the Channel Tunnel.

The agreement prescribes practical ways for the two regulators to cooperate. In particular, it sets common working methods within the two bodies:

  • the Bi-national Committee, consisting of representatives of the governing bodies of ARAFER and ORR
  • and the Permanent Service.

The Permanent Service is a working group of the departments of ARAFER and ORR. It is in charge of considering appeals and advising the Bi-national Committee in its decision making.

The Bi-national Committee is a forum for discussion, co-operation and conciliation between the two authorities. It consists of three members of the governing body of ARAFER and three representatives of the ORR Board. The committee supervises the activities of the Permanent Service and agrees joint positions to assist the two authorities to make coherent, shared decisions to regulate the Channel Tunnel.

Each year, the two regulators issue an opinion on the Eurotunnel Network Statement – checking that it contains no discriminatory clauses and does not grant discretionary powers to the infrastructure operator, which it could use to discriminate against railway companies. On 17 February 2016 ORR and ARAFER made their first recommendations on Eurotunnel's Network Statement for the 2017 service timetable.

The two authorities act as an appellate body in the terms of Article 56(1) of Directive 2012/34/EU for the railway companies, which can refer to it when they believe they have suffered unfair treatment, discrimination or any other impairment of their access to the tunnel.

They are also obliged to review every complaint made and may impose suitable penalties if appropriate, including fines.

Development of the economic regulation of the Channel Tunnel

The United Kingdom and France signed the Treaty of Canterbury on 12 February 1986. It governs the construction and operation by private concessionaire companies of a Channel Fixed Link. It delegates authority to an intergovernmental commission (the IGC) to handle matters relating to the construction and operation of this tunnel on behalf of both countries.

The regulations of the Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) on the usage of the Fixed Link have appointed the IGC as the regulatory body.

On behalf of the British and French Governments, the IGC continues to monitor matters relating to the construction and operation of the Channel Tunnel. Its main duties under Article 10 of the Treaty of Canterbury are as follows:

  • to supervise the construction and operation of the Fixed Link
  • to hold all necessary consultations with the concessionaires
  • to make decisions on behalf of both governments, implementing the Concession
  • to approve the Safety Authority's proposals under Article 11
  • to draft or help to draft any regulation governing the Fixed Link, including marine and environmental matters, and monitor it
  • to consider any question put to it by the Governments or the Safety Authority, or which it sees as needing consideration
  • and to issue opinions and recommendations to both Governments or to the concessionaires.

The Channel Tunnel infrastructure

The Channel Fixed Link between the United Kingdom and France consists of two railway tunnels plus a service tunnel, each 50 km long (37 km of which are under the sea).

It links the terminals at Folkestone (Kent) and Coquelles (Hauts-de-France). These connect with the national rail networks as well as with the motorway and road networks. The infrastructure also comprises the tunnel entry and exit control installations and the fixed equipment necessary for the practical operations.

Passenger and goods trains use the Fixed Link. There is also a railway shuttle system, Le Shuttle, consisting of wagons which can carry cars, vans and lorries. This infrastructure makes it possible to offer services for the international carriage of passengers, freight and combined international services for the carriage of goods.

The Fixed Link is governed by a Concession agreement, signed between the British and French Governments and the private company, Eurotunnel. The agreement expires in 2086.

Terms of access to the infrastructure

Any railway undertaking established in a Member State of the European Union must be granted fair access to the Channel Tunnel, without discrimination, so that it can operate the following services:

  • international carriage of freight
  • international carriage of passengers
  • intermodal carriage of freight (rail transport of road trailers).

Resources

Opinions, recommendations, decisions

Key documents

Other institutions

Industry parties

Investigation bodies