Brittany Ferries Sees Recovery in Passenger Numbers on Normandy Routes

BarfleurAfter a tough couple of years during the height of the financial crisis that affected passenger numbers on channel crossings from Normandy, Brittany Ferries has seen numbers rise.

The firm has announced a 9% increase over last year’s number of passengers during the summer season on its Channel crossing, its best summer season since 2009.

Almost 299,000 passengers travelled on routes from Normandy and the new route which opened in May from Le Havre to Portsmouth attracted 50,000 passengers, just over the initial target of 40,000. The Ouistreham to Portsmouth route continued to grow.

It believes that the growth in passenger traffic has been helped by the introduction of a new advertising strategy and the simplification of pricing for its crossings. It also reckons that the ending of the recession in the UK encouraged more people to travel across the Channel who were able to benefit from joint promotions with tourist boards in Normandy, Brittany and the Loire.

Jean-Marc Roue, chairman of the company’s supervisory board, said that the 9% increase marks a recovery from a low point and it has not made up almost half the passenger traffic lost in the last five years.

But the ferry company also confirmed that it has seen a ‘significant’ decline in freight volumes which it puts down to a price war. Mr Roue said there is less demand for freight on its routes and across the English Channel in general with more freight going back and forward between the UK and Europe via German ports.

With the future of ferry services from Dieppe in Upper Normandy potentially up for grabs when the current public service contract between the Seine Maritime Council and Transmanche Ferries runs out at the end of next year, Mr Roue said the firm has not ruled out bidding for the route but he would not be drawn further on what the company’s strategy might be.

There is also a question mark over the future of one of the newer Calais to Dover operators MyFerryLink which is owned by Eurotunnel. It has been told to pull out of the Dover route by the UK’s Competition Commission but it appealing against the decision.

Mr Roue also said that Brittany Ferries is still conscious of work needing to be done to return to competitiveness and he praised the staff in terms of accepting changes to working conditions but said the company still had to be vigilant in difficult economic times.

The company, along with other ferry firms, is having to update its vessels to be more environmentally friendly as a result of new global regulations and also faces rising fuel costs. One possibility that has been discussed is converting ships to run on liquid gas (LNG) and this has not been ruled out.

About Ray Clancy

Ray Clancy has 20 years experience in journalism including contributing articles to print and on-line publications such as, Property World Middle East and websites for estate agents. She has also written for the Daily Telegraph and Mail on Sunday.

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