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Tunnel time warp trips BR

THE 'wrong type of time' is set to be added to the litany of excuses for British Rail cancelling trains, when the Channel tunnel opens at the end of this year.

The problem arises because Britain changes from summer time to GMT a month later than the Continent, creating a period between late September and late October when British and European time coincides. While the timetables being drawn up by European Passenger Services (EPS), a BR subsidiary, can cope with the normal one-hour difference, they are thrown into disarray when the hours coincide.

EPS calculates that the hour change will lose it between pounds 3.7m and pounds 7m of revenue in the month when the clocks are in phase because of cancelled trains and reduced demand. The worst problem arises during the peak periods when BR wants to run three trains an hour rather than two and finds that the 17.19, which should be the 18.19, cannot run because there are too many Kent commuter trains on the track.

BR has decided that, during the one-month hiatus, it will try to leave the timetable from the two European capitals unchanged and amend the British departure times. Therefore, the first train, the 6.19, will become the 7.19 but will still arrive in Paris at the same time, 10.23. The 6.19 will therefore be cancelled, the 7.19 will be the 8.19 and so on.

Yesterday, at a conference organised by the Daylight Extra Action Group, Sir Alastair Morton, chairman of Eurotunnel, the Channel tunnel operators, said the argument for bringing Britain into line with Europe was irrefutable. The group wants Britain to go over to Central European Time, changing its clocks at the same time as Europe, so that Britain has the equivalent of summer time during the winter and double summer time in the summer.

The Home Office is due to announce its proposals in the summer in response to a consultation paper issued in 1989 and the group's chairman, Angus Crichton-Miller, is confident of success. 'Having the Channel tunnel will put extra pressure to achieve this change,' he said.