View from City Road: Tunnel is stuck in wonderland

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The Independent Online
Sir Alastair Morton, the chief executive of Eurotunnel, was indulging in one of his favourite pastimes yesterday - goading his persecutors in the financial press to write up the 'good news' about the Channel tunnel.

What exactly is this good news, you may ask. Well, Eurotunnel only needs another pounds 1bn-pounds 1.4bn from its shareholders and banks to remain solvent, only half its fleet of passenger shuttle trains is guaranteed to arrive by next spring's opening, Eurotunnel is still in dispute with contractors, rail companies and governments and, oh yes, another pounds 44m has been lopped from next year's revenue forecast.

If this were any other business, the shares would be on the floor and the directors long since out of the door. But it is not. A punt on Eurotunnel was always likely to resemble a step through the looking glass and yesterday the stock remained firmly anchored in wonderland, closing a mere 8p down.

On the plus side, peace has finally broken out between Eurotunnel and Transmanche Link and there is now little dispute that the tunnel will be open for service next summer - though quite when rail passengers will be able to travel from London to Paris in three hours remains less certain.

But that can be of only limited comfort to Eurotunnel's long-suffering shareholders as they prepare to be tapped for a further pounds 500m in the next six months, having been promised that Eurotunnel would not need to raise fresh funding before the tunnel opens.

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