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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
Security lapses 'threaten UK business'
Warning sign
The French are accused of lax security measures
Poor security at the French end of the Channel Tunnel is threatening to put scores of British firms out of business, freight train operator EWS has claimed.

It said action was needed immediately to stop refugees trying to find a way through the tunnel to Britain.

EWS planning director Graham Smith said the company had already lost millions of pounds, after being forced to cancel 4,000 trains since November.

He told BBC Radio Four's Today programme the situation was "ridiculous", adding: "Our customers are going out of business and are having to look for alternative modes of transport."

'Pick and shovel'

EWS has repeatedly called for action to improve security around the Frethun freight terminal, including a proper fence and 24-hour policing.

Sangatte refugees
Many refugees repeatedly try to slip past guards
Mr Smith said: "We are looking for anything which reduces the attraction of the Channel Tunnel for asylum-seekers."

He said closing Sangatte would provide a partial solution to the problem, but more would still need to be done.

"We believe there is a man out there with a pick and shovel now, putting up a new fence," Mr Smith said.

"But what we want the home secretary to do today is insist that more policing is put into Frethun with immediate effect.

"Then we can resume normal freight services and get freight back on the railways."

Lorries

EWS said that on Monday night security fears had forced it to cancel all but three trains out of 18 which had been due to travel.

In normal circumstances EWS would run 100 trains a week, but since November it had managed to send out just 40 a week.

Mr Smith said the French government's failure to take firm action sooner had forced EWS customers to find other modes of transport.

More than 150,000 extra lorries had found their way on to Kent's roads as a result, he said.

'Pressure'

The involvement of the British government was welcomed by Mr Smith.

He said: "They have put pressure on the French authorities. They have written letters. They have had meetings.

"I think Mr Blair's involvement has perhaps accelerated the process, but at a time when their transport strategy is looking for an 80% growth in rail freight and domestically we grew 9% last year, rail freight is the successful part of the government's transport strategy."


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23 May 02 | Europe
23 May 02 | UK Politics
31 May 02 | UK Politics
30 May 02 | UK Politics
30 May 02 | UK Politics
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