Eurotunnel seeks millions from BR: Late delivery of rolling stock cited

Click to follow
The Independent Online
EUROTUNNEL has started arbitration proceedings over a 1987 contract with British Rail and the French national railway, SNCF, dealing with their use of the Channel tunnel.

Analysts say Eurotunnel is seeking hundreds of millions of pounds to cover revenues it expected from the contract but now believes will not accrue because of the late delivery of rolling stock to the rail companies and the failure to begin work on a fast rail link to London.

A spokesman for BR said: 'British Rail and SNCF do not have a dispute with Eurotunnel and we are surprised that Eurotunnel is trying to fabricate a dispute with its major customers.' The row follows only weeks after Eurotunnel settled a long-running financial dispute with the tunnel contractor, Transmanche Link.

Under the 1987 contract, half of the tunnel's capacity was made available to BR and SNCF in return for payment relating to passengers and freight carried, and to operating costs.

Eurotunnel now says that there will be less traffic than originally thought because of the lack of rolling stock. Traffic will also be reduced because of the absence of a UK high-speed rail link. A further complication, the company added, is that Eurotunnel's projections for operating costs have risen.

Eurotunnel argues the contract can no longer deliver the balance of benefits envisaged at the time it was agreed.

It says the company wants a deal that would still allow the railways half of the capacity but make up for Eurotunnel's alleged lost revenues.

British Rail said that it did not intend to conduct public debate on the issue but that it regarded the 1987 deal as valid. BR said the contract did not require the construction of a fast rail link and that the trains would be ready for the launch of the service next year - the opening has been delayed from this year until next March.