Tunnel deadline given to UK and France
Tuesday 21 January 1997
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.
- 1 Barbarians vs Samoa interrupted by sprinklers as fans criticise lack of Wi-Fi and poor seating at West Ham's Olympic Stadium
- 2 Caitlyn Jenner car crash: Driver who died in collision sued by surviving passengers for $18.5m
- 3 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 4 Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Caitlyn Jenner car crash: Driver who died in collision sued by surviving passengers for $18.5m
Celebrity Big Brother 2015: Tila Tequila kicked off show after 'describing Hitler as a good man'
Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Stock up on canned food for stock market crash, warns former Gordon Brown adviser
iJobs Money & Business
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...
£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...