Branson in last round of rail link fight

Virgin victories: Breakthrough on Channel Tunnel but cinema chain was won at a high cost

Eurorail, the consortium led by Lord Parkinson, and London & Continental, which includes Richard Branson's Virgin, have beaten off two other challengers for the right to bid to build the pounds 3bn Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

The two groups now go forward to a final shortlist. They have been the most high-profile and confident of the four bidders and yesterday Brian Mawhinney, the Transport Secretary, announced that the two other contenders - Union Link, which includes John Mowlem, and Green Arrow, led by Hochtief - had been eliminated from the competition. He said the bids had been judged on the basis of how much government cash they required to build the line, the level of risk they were prepared to take and the "evaluation of other transport benefits".

The Government is under pressure to build the 70-mile high-speed line between St Pancras and Folkestone quickly because of the embarassing contrast with France, which built its high-speed line in time for the opening of the Channel Tunnel. Dr Mawhinney stressed that the Government was on target to meet the schedule of announcing the winner before the end of the year. The line is expected to be completed by 2002 at the earliest.

The losing bidders will receive a government grant of a third of their costs, with a maximum of pounds 1.5m, paltry compensation given that one of the two consortiums is thought to have spent pounds 14m.

Ministers had originally hoped to limit the Government's contribution to pounds 1.5bn - this includes European Passenger Services, the government company that runs the Eurostar trains connecting London with Paris and Brussels. But it is now thought this figure will be greatly exceeded.

The two remaining bids are different in emphasis and character. London & Continental has made a virtue of the fact that its bid is not contractor- led, reflecting its long-term interest in running the rail service on the CTRL. It is seeking to run trains in conjuction with the West Coast Main Line, providing places such as Birmingham and Liverpool with a fast connection to the Continent.

Eurorail, which includes Trafalgar House, is seeking to build the line in two phases and also wants the most expensive part of the project, the tunnel between Barking and Islington, to be built in a cheaper single- bore tunnel rather than a twin bore.

Minutes of the Government's assessment committee which is considering the bids, leaked to the Independent in May, revealed that Eurorail's original bid was the most non-compliant of the four bidders but the consortium had been allowed to provide a late compliant bid.

The leak also revealed that allowing the bid process to take place simultaneously with consideration of the Parliamentary Bill was causing great difficulties to the assessment committee.Since the leak, ministers have agreed that no change in the route can be made without jeopardising the progress of the Bill, and this means that the process is likely to keep to schedule. Yesterday Dr Mawhinney attempted to ensure that bidders stop trying to press for alternative routes by saying: "We have no intention of changing the route for the new line."

Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam