Railways to sue Eurotunnel for freight delay

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The Independent Online
BRITISH RAIL and its French counterpart, SNCF, are to seek damages from Eurotunnel over the delayed start of freight services through the Channel tunnel, writes Michael Harrison.

Alain Poinssot, SNCF's director of freight operations, said yesterday that the delay was causing financial loss to SNCF and BR and mistrust and impatience among their customers.

Freight shuttle services had been due to begin on 7 March with the car shuttle service following on 8 May, but Eurotunnel has been forced to postpone both launches because of technical difficulties in commissioning the tunnel. No new start dates have been given.

Eurotunnel and the two railways are already involved in a dispute over the delayed introduction of Eurostar through passenger services between London and Paris. The dispute, now in arbitration, is likely to take several months to settle. BR and SNCF had contracted to take 50 per cent of the tunnel's capacity.

Sir Michael Bishop, chairman of British Midland, warned last night that his airline would seek action from Brussels if Channel tunnel operators sought state subsidies to prop up their services and offer lower fares. He predicted that the tunnel might cut air travel by 10-15 per cent in its first full year of operation.

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