View from City Road: Viewed with hindsight and tunnel vision

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The Independent Online
My dearest grandchild - By the time you read this, the Channel tunnel might just be open. Please look after the enclosed - it entitles you to one free trip through the wretched thing.

You know, in my day they had a saying: A Eurotunnel share certificate says more about you than cash ever can. And to think I actually believed them. We were also told that the tunnel would be built for pounds 5bn and open for business by May 1993.

Yesterday morning Sir Alastair Morton (you remember, that tall, unpredictable fellow who introduced himself to us once down at the exhibition centre in Folkestone) said on the radio that he didn't know when the tunnel will open. I ask you. Even so, he seems pretty confident that it's now going to cost pounds 9.75bn and that the likes of me and 620,000 other shareholders are going to have to stump up another pounds 850m if we don't want to see our holdings diluted.

Now I know that a doubling in project costs might seem a little steep, but I can understand how they have edged up. But what gets my goat is that they still don't seem to know when the tunnel will open. Who's running this show, Eurotunnel or the contractors? I can only hope it's one more piece of Mortonian brinkmanship. After all, neither side can afford to hang around for ever fighting over the contractors' pounds 1.45bn claim.

If the passenger shuttles aren't shuttling by this time next year, I can see the chain being pulled on a couple of the contractors. Ditto Sir A and his merry men, who won't have enough operating income to pay the milkman, let alone the banks (have you ever noticed how many zeros there are when the interest payment on pounds 7.276bn is written out?).

Anyway, as I say, by the time you're reading this you'll be enjoying the benefit of that most precise of all forecasting tools, hindsight. What I do know is that they won't be paying you a dividend until 1999. What I could never work out is whether the yield or capital growth made the stock worthwhile. (Never mind, nor could the so-called City analysts).

Open the box and you'11 find 100 shares bought at 350p apiece. I do hope they haven't performed too poorly. After all, pounds 350 seems a lot to pay if all you've ended up with is one measly round trip. I could have laid down a rather decent port for that.

PS: Hope you enjoy my other little bequest, but I just couldn't resist when I saw it was out on video. And they say A Year in Provence can only improve with age . . . unlike Eurotunnel shares.

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