Channel tunnel breaks truck record, but will it continue?

Last week saw the millionth truck of 2016 pass through Le Shuttle Freight, the Channel Tunnel’s Truck Shuttle service, setting a new record. But some have questioned whether the trend will continue in years and decades to come.

Eurotunnel chiefs say that they managed to reach the million milestone almost one month ahead of the same milestone in 2015.

Increased truck use has become a trend for the tunnel. Since November last year, Truck Shuttles have set new records month-on-month against the same periods in previous years.

Jo Willacy, Commercial Director for Eurotunnel, said: “In choosing to make the crossing with the Channel Tunnel, hauliers and truck drivers benefit from an enlarged, secure and comfortable environment. It is through the provision of this quality of service that the tunnel remains the most attractive means of transport and has retained its position as the industry leader.”

But the tunnel faces a number of threats and challenges that could interrupt or even reverse the upward trend in truck usage.

pink truck


Brexit is the most obvious threat to the future of the tunnel. 44 per cent of all UK exports go to the EU and a good deal of them will travel on trucks through the channel tunnel. Even more goods will travel in the opposite direction from mainland Europe.

If the UK fails to secure some kind of meaningful access to the single market, then trade and the back and forth movement of goods will likely take a hit.  This would not be good news for hauliers or the Channel Tunnel authorities.

A survey by the Freight Transport Authority (FTA) found that tariff-free access to the single market, as well as the ability to hire non-UK drivers were key issues for haulage companies on the back of the Brexit vote.

However, experts think that it is unlikely that these established patterns of trade will disappear overnight. Supply chains that have been entrenched over decades are unlikely to break up immediately.


The Channel Tunnel crossing has been rocked by disruption in recent months and years. The tunnel, and particularly it’s port in Calais, has become a flashpoint in the recent migrant crisis which has created all sorts of disruption along the crossing. Concerns about driver safety have also come to the fore recently with one MP warning that action must be taken ‘before this sorry saga ends in a tragedy.’

Operation Stack, the Kent police scheme which sees lorries line up along both sides of the M20 has become a familiar site for lorry drivers again this year after it was enforced 32 times in the summer of 2015. Delays, disruption and danger caused by the migrant crisis, and more recently by industrial action on both sides of the border could deter more drivers and haulage companies from using the crossing.

There are some quite serious threats to the Channel Tunnel’s future as a major entrance and exit for Britain’s trucks. But it seems unlikely to diminish overnight. It remains on of the quickest routes in and out of the country and if the impact of Brexit and the migrant crisis is brought under control, then its future should be secure.