Improved security removes need for night-time closures, claims Eurotunnel

Eurotunnel has played down the possibility of night time closures of the Channel Tunnel as a way of curbing illegal crossings by migrants into the UK.

The Channel Tunnel operator said recent measures to improve security at the Calais entrance of the tunnel had seen a fall in the numbers of migrants attempting to storm the tunnel entrance, making the prospect of night time closures as an emergency measure less likely.

Eurotunnel appeared to take a more conciliatory tone this week, just days after it emerged that its chairman Jacque Gounon had sent an angry letter in response to the UK government's proposal for night time closures, which was tabled at a meeting of Cobra last month.

Gounon’s letter, to the head of the British delegation at the Anglo-French organisation that manages the Channel concession, accused the British government of “sowing panic among customers and investors”. It also warned that any closure would cost the British taxpayer over £200m a year.

A Eurotunnel spokesman told Commercialmotor.com: “The letter was an attempt to prevent any decision to close the tunnel at night. It was a warning. But the situation has changed since then. The proposal to close the tunnel at night was made when the situation was really crazy a few weeks ago and it was one of several on the table. That is not the case any more. There has been a big improvement in security so there is no reason to shut it down at night.”

He added: “There are far fewer attempts because of the work we have done on site and measures taken by both the French and UK governments to help improve security.”

Trade associations have roundly condemned the proposal to close the Channel Tunnel at night in the face of migrant activity.

RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett said: “The latest suggestion to address the issue of migrants entering the Channel Tunnel at night simply beggars belief. The idea would cost far more in terms of damage to the economy than it could ever gain in terms of increased security during the hours of darkness.”

The FTA echoed Burnett’s view, warning it would be “hugely detrimental” to the haulage industry, which transports a large amount of goods overnight.

It came as is was revealed the Operation Stack diversion to Manston could cost hauliers an £15 extra per trip in fuel.

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