Eurotunnel chief rails against the train-makers

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The Independent Online
The Year of Our Lord 1996 finds Sir Alastair Morton in vintage form. Whatever new year resolutions were made by the irascible co-chairman of Eurotunnel, a vow to be less confrontational was not among them. Speaking yesterday at Fleming's conference on European High-Speed Railways, Sir Alastair branded Britain as "the laughable tail-end Charlie'' and took the opportunity to lambast the performance of industry suppliers.

"We can't even say GEC Alsthom's Eurostars handle the upgraded Kent line satisfactorily,'' barked Sir Alastair, "while Brush's new Class 92 locomotives are in all kinds of conflict with signalling and other electrics.''

The Eurotunnel boss is keen that neither the manufacturers nor "what was BR'' escape blame for what he reckons is a lamentable performance in Britain generally and toward Eurotunnel in particular.

"Our view of Breda Fiat as a supplier is completely unprintable,'' railed the tunnel operator. "Our view of Brush is charitable on good days but not on bad days.''

Come on now. Don't beat about the bush Sir Alastair.

Desperate to raise pounds 8.1m in private money to fund its new theatre (the condition for unlocking an award of pounds 30m from the National Lottery) Sadler's Wells yesterday resorted to the time-honoured technique of going cap in hand to the City. Having raised pounds 1.4m from existing supporters the theatre still needs another pounds 6.7m and has responded with the launch of a "bold fund-raising initiative'' - a theatrical euphemism for tapping corporate Britain in return for the "rare opportunity'' to name a seat in the new theatre.

Leafing through the December issue of Forbes in a dentist's waiting room, one's eyes are drawn inexorably to unpalatable photographs of balding heads and distended organs. The magazine is concerned that the American businessman has gone into plastic surgery in a very big way, pointing out that men accounted for one quarter of the one million plastic surgery operations in the US last year - up from virtually nothing ten years ago. Most male patients are businessmen between the ages of 40 and 60, it concludes.

Hair transplants aside, the ageing businessman is most concerned about his wrinkled eyes. "His eyes are what he uses to meet his clients every day,'' says Dr William Riley, a Houston plastic surgeon. At $8,000 for a face lift ($1,700 for a pot belly) none of this is cheap. But all pales into insignificance compared with the cost of a hair transplant.

Dr Melvin Mayer, a 46-year-old doctor from San Diego, was voted the baldest man at his twentieth High School reunion. So he spent $40,000 on a new head of hair. Clearly impressed by the earnings growth potential he went into the business. Now he owns 15 clinics performing 200 transplants a month.

Much like Victor Kiam and his razors. Only in reverse.

The synergies might not be immediately apparent but IG Index, the spread betting specialist, is to offer a foreign exchange dealing service. Aimed at the smaller business it will feature some 25 currencies with a dealing minimum of $100,000. Now you can buy dollars as part of a hedging strategy and still lose the lot on a punt on the next Tory majority.

Minions on Sir Lawrie Barratt's Yorkshire estate were amused to see Camilla Parker Bowles (above) smoking furiously in the car park of the Feversham Arms on the weekend. Riding with the Farndale hunt, the royal mistress did not look as if she was enjoying her spell on the housebuilder's spectacularly beautiful land. Possibly down to a noticeable police presence.