Calais: Eurotunnel freight terminal model




Eurotunnel’s Strategic Development Team used the Aimsun Next traffic modeling software to test different scenarios for the layout at the Calais freight terminal. The optimum layout selected allows Eurotunnel to fulfill or even exceed its promise to clients of a total journey time of 90 minutes.

Eurotunnel models freight terminal traffic with Aimsun

Above: The two areas of conflict in the original freight terminal layout: the CO2 controls and the check-in point.


Eurotunnel, the leading operator of rolling motorways, currently carries 1.5 million trucks each year between Calais in France and Folkestone in Kent. Eurotunnel’s promise to its clients is to provide a journey lasting only 90 minutes in total, from the French motorway to the English one, including all controls. This exceptional lead time is a key promise for truck transporters today.

Eurotunnel traffic is also set to increase traffic to 2 million trucks a year from 2020. To maintain (or even improve on) the 90-minute lead time in the face of this challenge, the Eurotunnel team in charge of Strategic Development, led by Hervé Lenglin, Manager of Strategic Projects with the help of Oscar Egu (VIE), used the Aimsun Next traffic modelling software to test the optimal layout of the Calais freight terminal.


The team modeled the current traffic in Aimsun Next and simulated a variety of alternative scenarios, exploring how the implementation of each scenario would impact the lead time.

The first step was to build and successfully calibrate and validate the Aimsun base model of the original layout, which constituted one lane between the end of CO2 controls and the check-in point.

The modeling team then looked at various sub scenarios, with the number of check-in lanes ranging from 4 to 6 lanes between the CO2 controls and the check-in point, including the potential use of dedicated lanes for specific vehicles such as vans, dangerous goods, etc. Assuming a check-in transaction time of under 60 seconds, 32 HGVs per departure and the above specific vehicles, the simulation allowed the Eurotunnel teams to reach to optimum decisions.

Eurotunnel models freight terminal traffic with Aimsun Next modelling software

Above: One of the proposed layouts, with four normal lanes and one fast track lane


Unusually, the new layout was implemented immediately, so the team has already been able to compare the simulated result to the real-life deployment and give immediate feedback.

We are happy to report that the new layout operates as expected from the simulation, with reduced queueing and will meet the objective of 8 departures per hour.