Sir Sandy's Euro-vision of cheap Channel fares

Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart
Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart

COUNTY council leader Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart has called on cross-Channel operators to cuts fares in a bid to revive the flagging Euro dream.

Speaking to more than 300 business and civic chiefs in Lille, Sir Sandy, a former president of the Euroregion (Kent, Medway, Nord-Pas de Calais, Flanders and Wallonia), admitted that some of the steam had gone out of the partnership.

A "top-down" approach led by officials no longer worked. It was now important for a "bottom-up" approach to lead the way, with more school and cultural exchanges.

This would also include plans, backed by Prime Minister Tony Blair and French president Jacques Chirac, for a Transmanche University with sites in Calais and Ashford.

He said cross-Channel activity would happen more quickly if fares were lowered.

"To build the links between Kent, Nord-Pas de Calais and the Euroregion, we have to make crossing the Channel easier and cheaper for ordinary citizens and businesses," he said.

"It is very easy and cheap to cross from France to Belgium but it is not so easy to cross the Channel.

"Therefore, it is a great challenge for Eurotunnel, Eurostar and for the shipping industry to really take that up. If we are to make a difference, we must make it an everyday event to cross the Channel."

Sir Sandy also warned that enlargement of the European Union would lead to a shift of power to the east.

The Euroregion has not capitalised on the Channel Tunnel.

"If we don't organise ourselves, we will find that Eastern Europe moves ahead of us."

Bill Dix, managing director of Eurotunnel Shuttle Services, insisted that its prices in general were not too high. There were some very good deals at the moment.

Eurotunnel had to pay its bills and it could not bring all prices down. But certain groups deserved help, especially students.

If the Transmanche University went ahead, students and lecturers should not have to pay for cross-Channel travel.

"To ask students to spend £20 or £30 a day to go across the Channel is clearly crazy," he said.

"If the Government is really supportive of this thing, they've got to find a way of working with us to provide subsidy or assistance to the students or the university so that their trip across this bit of water will be price neutral or zero."

If the Government wanted to show that the Channel was not a barrier, it had to help remove "the price barrier."

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