Dover-Zeebrugge crossing faces the axe

THE future of P&O Stena Line's ferry services between Dover and Zeebrugge could be in doubt, workers on the route have been told this week.

Consultations began on Monday (April 22) after the company revealed that the Zeebrugge service has not been delivering the necessary level of returns.

But a company spokesman said: "All options for the future of the route will be considered during the consultation process and there are no foregone conclusions."

P&O Stena Line currently operates three freight ships, making five return sailings a day, between Dover and Zeebrugge, and the crossing takes up to four-and-a-half hours.

The meetings are between the company and its employee representatives in Dover as well as with members of the French works councils in Calais as the company employs a French crew on one of its three Zeebrugge ferries.

The company has also notified its handling agent in Zeebrugge of the consultations and its agent, P&O North Sea Ferries, has been in contact with the relevant works council in the Belgian port.

The agenda for Monday's meetings concerned the consideration being given to the future of the route by the company.

"We will be seeking the views of our staff via their representatives in order to assist the decision-making process," said a company spokesman. "We will make no further comment in the meantime."

In 2001, P&O Stena Line carried 11 million passengers, 1.6 million tourist vehicles, and more than one million freight units.

Only last week, Dover Harbour Board announced there had been a larger than expected increase in freight traffic in the first three months of this year. Last year freight vehicle movements reached an all-time port record of 1.7 million, but they increased by nearly three per cent in these first three months of this year to 444,000.

Last week, the board announced a £70 million investment in four new ferry berths over the next five years.

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