Tunnel deadline given to UK and France

Eurotunnel warned yesterday that the restructuring of its pounds 8.7bn debt mountain is at risk unless the British and French governments agree to extend its concession to run the Channel Tunnel. The company is in negotiations to extend the concession from 65 to 99 years and has set a deadline of the end of March for agreement from the two governments.

Robert Malpas, co-chairman of Eurotunnel, said yesterday in Folkestone: "An extension is critical if we are to secure the support of our bankers and shareholders for the financial restructuring. Without it, it will be even more difficult."

He was speaking as Eurotunnel announced that it had recaptured a third of the cross-Channel market since the freight shuttle fire in November which forced it to close the tunnel. Eurotunnel expects its market share to return to 50 per cent by the end of the year with total revenues forecast to increase to about pounds 600m compared with pounds 450m last year.

The total cost of the fire, including lost revenue, repair work, compensation payments and the replacement of the burnt-out shuttle, is forecast at a maximum of pounds 265m-pounds 270m. However, Eurotunnel said its insurance would cover it for all but pounds 5m-pounds 7m of this.

The only remaining clues to the terrifying conflagration that took place are the exposed steel reinforcing bars hanging from the tunnel roof. The sheer heat of the fire stripped away three-quarters of the 40cm thick concrete lining covering them.

Yesterday, nine weeks to the day after the blaze, work began to repair the tunnel so that it will be "as good or better than the original", according to David Pointon, Eurotunnel's technical director. A team of 140 engineers will work around the clock for the next 16 weeks to repair the lining and renew the burnt out electrical systems.

What remains of the lining will be secured with hundreds of 2.5-metre steel bolts. The engineers will then spray the tunnel walls with concrete from specially adapted trains. When the tunnel was originally built the concrete lining was fitted in giant pre-cast slabs. As a precaution, the most severely damaged part of the tunnel - a 46 metre-long section - is temporarily being supported with steel colliery arches.

The tunnel floor is, disconcertingly, a few inches deep in water and everywhere the tunnel lining is blackened by smoke. But Mr Pointon says: "We have monitored for structural movement and drilled numerous boreholes and the news is good. There is very little ingress of water and no structural movement."

The company said it did not believe the fire would affect its debt restructuring. But because it does not expect to resume full services until June, it has asked its banks to extend its debt standstill, under which Eurotunnel has suspended interest payments on its loans, until the end of the year. Passenger numbers fell by almost a half in December in the wake of the fire and the subsequent reduction in services. No freight shuttles have operated since the incident. Eurotunnel is aiming to restart freight shuttle services by the end of March and complete repairs to the fire-damaged section of the tunnel by mid-May so that it can resume a full service from June.

The plan is to have achieved a full recovery from the fire by the end of 1997. Eurostar services are back to 90 per cent of normal levels while passenger shuttle services have recovered to 50 per cent of their levels before the fire. Despite the fire, revenues rose by more than 60 per cent to pounds 450m as the number of passengers using the tunnel increased from 8 million in 1995 to 13 million. Eurostar handled just under 4.9 million passengers, giving it 66 per cent of the London-Paris market, while Eurotunnel's Shuttle service carried more than 2 million cars and 58,000 coaches, giving it a 50 per cent share of the tourist market.

So far Eurotunnel's insurers have paid pounds 34m for lost revenue in 1996 and the company said it was confident that the impact of the fire on its finances in 1996 and the first half of this year would be limited.

Last year Le Shuttle carried more than half-a-million trucks, against 400,000 in 1995, while the railways handled 2.4 million tonnes of freight. Until the fire interrupted services, passenger numbers were 87 per cent up on 1995.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Business Analyst (Agile, SDLC, software)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Finance Manager - Bank - Leeds - £300/day

£250 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Finance Manager - Accountant - Bank...

Compliance Officer - CF10, CF11, Compliance Oversight, AML, FX

£100000 - £120000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: A leading fi...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn