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Railwatch 078 - December 1998

Railwatch - High speed action

Work got under way in October on the Channel Tunnel fast link after years of delay.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott ceremonially dug the first hole near Cuxton, beside the River Medway in Kent.

Mr Prescott has good reason to be proud, having devised a public-private package to get work on the link going after only 18 months in office.

A sign next to Mr Prescott pointed to Amsterdam, Brussels, Cologne and Paris and in the other direction to London, but also to - The Regions.

Considering the debacle over delivering Eurostar services north of London, that was at least a hopeful indication.

"Enough time has been wasted talking about this railway over the last few years," he said. "It's time to start digging."

One of the key players now is Railtrack which has agreed to build the £5.6 billion 68-mile long link.

Railtrack has embraced involvement in this grand scheme and we can only hope that it does not forget its duty to the rest of the railway.

It has certainly failed to make any progress on London's CrossRail project and is now reported to be going cold on the idea of piggyback freight.

It is also implementing "Project Destiny" cutting back on track and signalling work to save money. It has also explained late trains by saying there are too many trains on our tracks!

This is not the kind of message we want to hear from the guardian of our rail infrastructure.

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