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Eurotunnel terminal development on the cards according to leaked letter to the Financial Times

Leaked documents have revealed intentions to develop a freight terminal in Kent using public funds.

Eurotunnel chairman Jacques Gounon has written to Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport, expressing the company's willingness to put on more train services between the UK and the continent after Brexit.

According to the letter, first published by the Financial Times, the reassurances come after Mr Gounon's 'serious concerns' that post-Brexit agreements have already been made between the government and ferry operators to provide additional freight capacity.

The Eurotunnel truck shuttle service. Credit: Eurotunnel
The Eurotunnel truck shuttle service. Credit: Eurotunnel

Mr Gounon appealed to the Minister for rail support, confirming preparations are underway to deliver an increased timetable and that Eurotunnel 'staff are ready to operate additional missions, assuming that Her Majesty's Government (HMG) will bear any related costs'.

Plans for developing a rail freight terminal in Folkestone for unaccompanied trailers appear to be in addition to this, but it has not been confirmed if this would involve creating a new building or expanding what is currently there.

Unaccompanied freight is the transport of wheeled freight without the driver and cab, meaning it is brought to the terminal, left there, transported across by Eurotunnel, and picked up at the other side, meaning no driver leaves either country.

The letter reads: "With the shortest journey time available on the market, Le Shuttle is the most efficient way to supply goods into the UK. This will remain the case even if delays occur due to the introduction of new border procedures by the two States, or through a lack of sufficient public officials to operate them.

"In order to mitigate that risk, our staff are ready to operate additional missions, assuming that HMG will bear any related costs.

"Another option we are working on, as you know, is running additional freight trains.

"Moreover, we are currently working on a project to develop a rail freight terminal for unaccompanied trailers, in Folkestone, which will need public financial support."

It adds their transport company's desire for 'equivalent contracts' to those signed with ferry operators: "I would ask you please to confirm that you are open to replicating the same kind of contracts with us."

It comes after three companies were awarded the deal to run crossings between Ramsgate and Ostend by the DfT, to ease pressures on freight traffic set to be created in a no-deal scenario.

Eurotunnel. Stock picture (6543825)
Eurotunnel. Stock picture (6543825)

Seaborne Freight is one of three companies that has been awarded the deal, in what has been called 'a situation of extreme urgency', despite never having run a ferry service.

It was handed a £13.8 million government contract at the end of last year, while French company Brittany Ferries and Danish shipping firm DFDS were handed the other two.

Services from the contracts, worth £108 million in total, must be operational by March 29.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling defended the decision to hand the contract to Seaborne Freight to provide extra ferry capacity in the event of a no-deal, saying he makes 'no apologies for supporting a new British business'.

Folkestone and Hythe District Council leader Cllr David Monk said: "We are not aware of any development but we work very well with Getlink and I’m confident anything that they are doing will be sensible.

"In the past few years they have already increased capacity on their site to take lorries off the motorway and stop traffic stacking up."

A Eurotunnel spokeswoman said: "We are not in a position to discuss this."

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