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Eurotunnel boss says no delays from new biometrics checks at EU borders

Eurotunnel boss says no delays from new biometrics checks at EU borders
 

The arrival of European Union’s biometric border controls has ignited fears over long queues at the UK’s border checkpoints. But Eurotunnel’s boss Yann Leriche says that the introduction of the EU Entry-Exit system (EES) will not bring significant delays.

According to the new system, which is set to be introduced in early October, British citizens will have to register their fingerprint and facial biometrics when entering the bloc. The CEO of Getlink, the operator of Eurotunnel, says journeys would take five to seven minutes longer, but Eurotunnel is investing in additional lanes and technology to make travel smooth.

Travelers “will simply out of their car, spend a few minutes on their kiosks, and go back to their car and continue their journey,” Leriche told the BBC.

Getlink has come up with a three-year investment plan to meet EES regulations, spanning from 2022 to 2024. The company, which operates the undersea railway tunnel, is spending 80 million euros on processing zones at Folkestone and Calais sites and hiring 140 additional staff to assist passengers.

In April, it demonstrated its EES biometric kiosks and mobile tablet designed by In Groupe during the Passenger Terminal Expo and Conference in Madrid. The installation of the first kiosks is expected to last until early May while the testing period will be conducted in July. A total of 224 kiosks will be installed on the two terminals in France and the UK.

The biometric kiosks have been specifically designed for car passengers and for withstanding different weather conditions. Eurotunnel has carried out two tests on four units with over 180 passengers.

Eurotunnel also developed an operational model using a digital twin to simulate passenger flows on busy days. AI was used to reproduce peak days and help design terminals for optimal traffic flow.

“The biometric data collection for first entry into the EU will take no more than 2 minutes and even less for repeat entry,” the company says.

Leriche also believes that traffic between London and Europe will double within the next 10 years. Since the tunnel opened in 1994, Eurostar has been the only passenger train service operating from London St Pancras station to Paris and beyond. Getlink has offered 50 million euros in support to encourage companies to open new cross-Channel rail services to rival Eurostar.

The implementation of the EES, however, has been worrying Eurostar. An app that is supposed to streamline EES registration was belatedly approved for a pilot and will likely not be ready in time, potentially leading to massive queues at the border with the UK, the company has warned.

HS1, the owner and operator of the line and stations between London and the Channel tunnel, has also been sounding the alarm over the infrastructure for EES checks at London’s St. Pancras rail station which it describes as “severely inadequate.”

Aside from passenger and freight transportation companies, the EES is also worrying UK residents. The system could create burdens for long-term immigrants and travelers planning extended stays within the EU, according to media reports.

This post was updated at 2:34pm Eastern on May 8, 2024 to clarify the circumstances of the app’s release timeline and May 10 to clarify the attribution of comments.

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