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Monday, 26 March, 2001, 07:57 GMT 08:57 UK
Stowaway fines 'unfair'
Freight train
EWS is prepared to take its battle against fines to court
The only British cross-channel freight train operator has warned its business is threatened by hefty fines for stowaway illegal immigrants.

English Welsh and Scottish Railway (EWS) has said it will not pay the fines because it cannot afford them and they are unfair.

Already the freight firm faces fines of 252,000 since the new regulations, charging 2,000 per illegal immigrant, were introduced on 1 March.

It has vowed to challenge the penalties in court arguing that it is the French authorities that are falling foul of the law by not carrying out checks on the other side of the Channel.

It is ironic that we search the trains as soon as they come under our control and we get hounded by a 2,000 fine per head for the trouble

Graham Smith
EWS planning director

Graham Smith, EWS's planning director, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the freight firm could not possibly afford the fines which could amount to 5m per year.

"We can't continue our cross channel services, which is a great shame because it is one of the major planks of the government's growth target of 80% of freight on rail."

He said EWS was being fined for searching its trains while French train operators made no such checks and escaped the fines.

"It is ironic that we search the trains as soon as they come under our control and we get hounded by a 2,000 fine per head for the trouble," he said.

He added: "It is very tempting not to do the searches but we are concerned to make sure our trains are safe so we will search the trains and get fined as a result."

Mr Smith said his firm wanted to do similar checks on the other side of the Channel but that was under the remit of the French authorities, train operators and French customs officials.

Offer of help

He said his firm had even offered to lend the French train operators equipment that could detect stowaways.

And EWS has been attempting to arrange talks with the relevant authorities on both sides of the Channel.

He argued that it was the French who were breaching the regulations, not EWS.

"We believe we are covered by regulations and that we are being fined unfairly," he said.

Mr Smith said his firm would be prepared to go to court to argue the case.

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19 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Panorama exposes immigrant racket
27 Jun 00 | Europe
Illegal immigrants: UK overview
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