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Ferry merger fare fears

10th October 1996
Page 11
Page 11, 10th October 1996 — Ferry merger fare fears
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by Karen Miles • Cross-Channel ferry fares look set to rise in the New Year following last week's longexpected announcement of a merger between P&O and Stena on their busiest cross-Channel routes.

To combat competition from the Channel Tunnel the two operators plan to cut costs by 475m and observers expect a reduction in the number of crossings. The new company, P&O Stena Line, should be "significantly cash generative",

according to its major shareholder, P&O.

P&O refuses to comment on future fare levels but the Road Haulage Assocation fears the worst.

"If prices go up as they are expected then people will definitely be disappointed," says Mike Freeman, the RHA's international controller.

The deal still has to be ratified by the Office of Fair Trading and the European Commission, but P&O says it hopes to have the 14-vessel operation running by the start of next year. The deal affects Dover-Calais, Dover-Zeebrugge and Newhaven and Dieppe.

The Dover Harbour Board welcomes the rationalisation. "Price stability will have to follow if a long-term viable ferry industry is to be sustained at Dover," says its managing director Jonathan Sloggett.

He says the port will offer instead two or three services an hour instead of four or five. "There are currently two departures leaving at the same time at less than half capacity in future there will be one."

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