Bovis withdraws from 3bn pounds race for rail contract: Nine consortia compete to build and own high-speed Channel tunnel link

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The Independent Online
ONE OF the leading contenders to bid for the contract to build and own the pounds 3bn high-speed Channel tunnel rail link has pulled out at the eleventh hour.

Bovis, the construction arm of P&O, the cross-Channel ferry operator, said it had shelved plans to put together a bidding consortium.

Pre-qualifying bids, expressing applicants' broad-brush approach to the railway, but not financial details, were due in at the Department of Transport yesterday.

Nine consortia applied, more than the six contenders expected as recently as last week by Union Railways, the former BR subsidiary with responsibility for the link.

A Bovis spokesman said that, having managed projects at Canary Wharf and Euro Disney, the company was interested in joining a group at a later stage in the seven- year project.

But he said Bovis had been unable to find a partner dedicated to owning a railway in the long term. The mandate for the 68-mile route lasts for 999 years and the winning consortium will be expected to demonstrate an ability to run the link as well as build it.

Those who have declared their hands include Eurorail, a group comprising BICC, General Electric, HSBC, London Electricity, National Westminster Bank and Trafalgar House.

Lord Parkinson, chairman of the group, said the inclusion of two large City institutions underlined its commitment to ensuring that the financial management skills were in place.

Ove Arup, the consulting engineer that advised on the favoured route from Cheriton in Kent to St Pancras, has chosen to join a consortium with no contractor.

In a thinly disguised reference to the long-running dispute between Eurotunnel and TML, its application said a clear division of the roles of promoter/owner and contractor would minimise conflicts of interest.

The consortium includes the consulting engineer Sir William Halcrow, the project manager Bechtel, SG Warburg, Blue Circle, National Express and Sofrerail, the French railway consultant.

Costain, the construction company, has teamed up with Hochtief, the German group, while Mowlem, owner of London City Airport, will present proposals with another German partner, Philip Holzmann, and Taylor Woodrow.

The nine consortia are expected to be whittled down to about four over the next two months. They will have the rest of the year to work out detailed proposals for building and financing the link. A winner will be chosen by April 1995.

Bidders will be asked to say how much the project will cost and how much government funding they will require. The Treasury has already pledged to give the winner assets worth pounds 1.4bn, most accounted for by the St Pancras and Waterloo international stations.

The winning team will also inherit European Passenger Services, the recently hived-off BR division that will run a slow service on existing tracks to the Channel tunnel until the new link is completed in about 2002.