Eurotunnel chief attacks Government

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THE GOVERNMENT'S timing for privatising British Rail is 'potentially catastrophic' for industry, according to Alistair Morton, the chief executive of Eurotunnel.

Mr Morton said that the sell-off could hamper investment in Britain's railways as the Treasury prevaricates over who should foot the modernisation bill.

Speaking at a conference for the freight industry, Mr Morton said: 'They (the Treasury) lack the political priorities which should be issued to them.'

Mr Morton launched a bitter attack on the Government's record on investment in the transport infrastructure. He accused Whitehall of 'unfocused flapping about' for which future generations would pay.

The Eurotunnel chief said that in spite of the single European market and the Channel tunnel, Britain could be suffering for years to come from road and rail thrombosis between the coast and the business heart of the country.

At the same time Mr Morton warned of the problems faced by companies providing a public service with private money.

Citing problems with the coal industry, Mr Morton attacked the Government for trying to persuade electricity companies to sign contracts with British Coal which they did not want.

He also referred to Eurotunnel's own 'altercations' over who will pay for some aspects of the Channel tunnel link, which is scheduled to open late next year. The company is in dispute with Transmanche Link, its contractors, about cost overruns. At the same time Eurotunnel is in technical breach of its loan agreements with banks, with current costs of pounds 8bn compared with the pounds 4.8bn previously envisaged.