Eurorail, one of the bidders for the pounds 3bn Channel Tunnel Rail Link, was engulfed in a political row last night after the surprise resignation of Lord Parkinson as chairman.
His departure, coming at a crucial stage in the tender process, sparked accusations that he resigned to avoid embarrassment over Eurorail's controversial bid. In May, the Independent revealed that the company's tender did not comply with the bid procedure laid down by the Department of Transport. But it was nevertheless allowed to re-submit an offer. That caused mutterings of favouritism among the consortia that did not make the shortlist.
Yesterday a spokesman for Eurorail said the affair was "completely irrelevant" to Lord Parkinson's resignation. He said: "When the National Audit Office and the Transport Select Committee come to look at the bids it will be proved beyond all doubt that the competition was fair."
But Michael Meacher, Labour's transport spokesman, claimed that Lord Parkinson had gone to avoid further embarrassment. "It is unacceptable. Eurorail were given a chance to have a second go, unlike other bidders."
Lord Parkinson is being replaced by Sir Robin Biggam, chairman of BICC, the cables and construction group. Eurorail is a joint venture that includes BICC, HSBC Holdings, NatWest Bank and Trafalgar House. Last month the consortium was chosen for the final shortlist.