Eurostar train tickets between London and Paris are notoriously costly — too costly, European regulators declared Thursday.
The European Commission warned Britain and France, which together regulate the company that operates the tunnel through the English Channel, to curb the high fees assessed on the Eurostar passenger trains and freight haulers.
The two countries must “comply with European Union rules against excessive track access charges for passenger and freight trains in the channel tunnel,” the commission, the bloc’s administrative arm, said in a statement.
Eurotunnel said the process was “targeted at the states and not at the company” before adding that the access charges were “proportional to the cost of the adjacent public infrastructures and more advantageous.” Representatives of the British and French ministries for transport said they followed the rules regarding the tunnel.
Shares in the operating company, the Eurotunnel Group, plunged by more than 12 percent on that news in Paris trading on Thursday.
The commission started to investigate the issue about two years ago, after receiving a number of complaints.
Rail freight companies have said that such charges limited the number of commercial trains they could send through the tunnel, adding to traffic congestion and pollution on the road. Currently, freight trains have to pay a minimum of 3,645 euros (about $4,878) per train.
Eurostar has similarly grumbled about the high costs it pays, which amount to 16.6 euros per passenger (about $21.20) and a reservation fee of at least 4,320 euros per train ($5,781). Those costs, the commission said, push up the price for travelers. The price of standard, one-way ticket from London to Paris on Saturday stood at 193 euros, or $258.
“Freight operators and their customers are being overcharged, and passengers are paying over-the-odds for their tickets,” Siim Kallas, the vice president of the European Commission, said in the statement.
The current price structure, the commission said, was also prohibiting new rail operators from entering the market. Only one rail passenger operator, Eurostar, now uses the tunnel.
Mr. Kallas added that high charges meant that the tunnel was not used to full capacity. The tunnel is carrying only about 43 percent of the traffic it could carry, the commission said.
Brussels also called for an independent rail regulator to monitor competition. The current regulator, the Channel Tunnel Intergovernmental Commission, is not independent because it includes officials appointed by the French and British governments, the European Commission said.