EUROTUNNEL slumped to a full-year loss as a long-running row over insurance payments arising from a fire in 2008 offset higher passenger numbers.
Higher debt costs also hit the Channel Tunnel operator, but revenues increased by 26% to £366.3m in 2010 following an 11% rise in car traffic to more than 2.1m vehicles.
The number of truck journeys leapt by 42% to almost 1.1m, but remains below the pre-recession level seen in 2007.
The group made losses of £49m compared to a profit of £6m last time.
The log-jam has been caused by legal claims brought jointly by Eurostar and SNCF against Eurotunnel’s insurers. The fire led to one section of the tunnel being unavailable between September, 2008, and February, 2009.
Shuttle service revenues improved by 15% to £314.5m as Eurotunnel said more travellers viewed the tunnel as cheaper and more flexible than flying.
Market share increased by almost 2% to 43% in 2010.
The ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano, which grounded air traffic in the spring, also helped to increase passenger numbers.
Revenues from rail operators including Eurostar, which pays to use its tracks, increased by 3% to £225.8m.
Eurotunnel said it expects to add an additional 3m or 4m train passengers over the next few years as it runs a number of new services.
Eurostar, which increased passenger numbers by 3% to 9.5m last year, is set to introduce new services to Amsterdam, Switzerland and south-east France.
Eurotunnel is planning to reinstate one of its own passenger trains, which it scrapped in 2005, to boost traffic in time for the London Olympics in 2012.
And German operator Deutsche Bahn is preparing to launch direct services between London and major cities in Holland and Germany in the next two years.
Eurotunnel said it could benefit from the soaring price of oil as more passengers take the train overseas.
Travel firms Thomas Cook and Thomson have brought in fuel surcharges and the operator of the Channel Tunnel expects other operators, including ferries, to put up prices if fuel prices continue to rise.
But its own business would be “almost unaffected” because its rail services are mainly powered by electricity from nuclear generators and hydroelectric plants.