BR forms company to work on tunnel link

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The Independent Online
BRITISH RAIL has formed a new wholly owned subsidiary, Union Railways, to take on responsibility for the Channel tunnel high-speed rail link.

John Prideaux, former managing director of InterCity, will be chairman of the new company. He is currently managing director of BR's New Ventures, which will be incorporated in the new company. Union Railways will also be responsible for any large-scale railway infrastructure plans. Gil Howarth, former director of the high-speed rail link project, will be the managing director.

The plan is to revitalise the flagging project, delayed last year when the Government decided it should go via east London rather than use BR's preferred south London route.

Dr Prideaux said the name 'Union' was intended to symbolise the purpose of the link, which is not only to provide a connection with Europe, but also to improve services between Kent and London and create a transport spine for the East Thames Corridor development. 'Too much attention has been paid to the link's international importance and not enough to the fact it will halve the time of journeys to work for many Kent commuters.'

Union Railways is working on a report on the link to be presented to the Government by the end of the year. It is expected that BR will try to reduce the cost, previously estimated at pounds 4.5bn, by about a third in order to make it more attractive to private investors.

Under the existing legislation, the link is supposed to be funded entirely by the private sector. Even if rapid approval and finance are obtained, the link is unlikely to be completed before the end of the century.