Vandals push car to edge of Eurostar track

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The Independent Online

Vandals pushed a stolen car to within two yards of the 186mph Channel Tunnel rail link.

Vandals pushed a stolen car to within two yards of the 186mph Channel Tunnel rail link. It was the latest in a series of incidents that have plagued the line since the high-speed service began.

Ten days ago, individuals sawed through a padlock on a 7ft-high metal security gate and pushed the vehicle down a steep embankment towards the track. The car stopped short of the line, jammed on the stone ballast supporting the rails.

The car was spotted on the track by a passer-by. Eurostar trains, which run through the area at full speed, were immediately ordered to slow until the vehicle was removed. The trains, which travel between London and Paris and Brussels, carry up to 770 passengers.

Network Rail, which is offering a £5,000 reward for any information that might lead to the conviction of the vandals, said there had been several incidents in the area, west of Strood in Kent.

Superintendent Colum Price of the British Transport Police said: "These were determined individuals who made every effort to get the car down on the track. To push a car down an embankment that steep on to a railway line with trains running that fast must mean they knew what they were doing.

"These incidents have been carried out by people who are intentionally trying to cause serious damage and I cannot stress more strongly the serious consequences of these malicious acts."

Endangering the safety of trains or obstructing them carries a maximum sentence of life. Chris Jago of Network Rail urged anyone with information to contact the police.

The new high-speed railway, which carries trains from the Channel Tunnel to north-west Kent before they continue their journey on old track into London, was opened to passenger services on 28 September.

The owner of the new link, the consortium London & Continental Railways, hopes to complete the second phase of the route by 2007. People in Kent have expressed concern that there is insufficient fencing to keep people off the track at a time when trespassing on the national network is at a record level.

Crime perpetrated by trespassers costs the national network £150m a year in damages to trains and delays. Police records show passengers suffer, on average, a total of 775,000 minutes of delay to their services every year because of criminal activities. In the peak period for railway crime, between 4pm and 8pm, there is an incident every four and a half minutes.