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Railwatch 076 - July 1998

Speed up you're going too slow

Transport Secretary John Prescott was applauded by the Press in early June for saving the Channel Tunnel fast rail link with a unique financial deal.

RDS has written to Mr Prescott welcoming the arrangement which will now mean the link is built in two stages with Railtrack involvement.

The sooner work begins the better but we also pressed the need for services to the north and the Thameslink 2000 works around St Pancras.

By telling investors the Government is backing the link, London and Continental Railways should have lower borrowing costs.

Private sector bonds will be issued to the value of £3.7 billion and the Government will provide £130 million in subsidy.

RDS wrote to Mr Prescott in February and said that there could be a case for a phased construction of the Channel Tunnel fast link and suggesting we would welcome the involvement of Railtrack in the project.

Now the first stage to Ebbsfleet should be built by 2003 with a full high-speed service to King's Cross by 2007.

The bad news is that the Government has been forced to write off the cost of the Eurostar sleeper trains - which are currently in store - and to accept that the sleepers will never be run.

"It's a bloody scandal," said Mr Prescott. "I have had to pay £110 million for sleeper trains that were sitting in a field. I could have done a lot of much more useful things with the money."

Eagle eyes are now settling on the fleet of regional Eurostar trains. The Virgin group has asked for permission to run trains through the Channel to Scotland and northern England.

Virgin spokesman Will Whitehorn said it would pay London and Continental £3.5 million a year to lease the trains. The Transport Secretary is said to be considering what to do.

More continental railways are appearing on the World Wide Web. For instance, French railways are at http://www.sncf.fr/ while German railways are at http://www.bahn.de

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