Simon Calder@SimonCalder
Friday 15 September 1995 23:02

When was the last time a Japanese or European bank gave you some cash? If you have crossed the Channel since 23 December last year, then the answer is the last time you made the journey - you benefited from fare-cutting brought about by the Channel tunnel. That fateful Friday, Eurotunnel opened for commercial business and also began trying to pay off the pounds 2m daily interest owed to financial institutions around the world on its pounds 8bn debt.

A hopeless cause, as anyone with access to a pocket calculator could have told them. Yet it took nine months of gestation before severe financial complications set in for Eurotunnel, and the company declared it would no longer pay the interest (try that one on with your building society or credit card company).

On Thursday Sir Alistair Morton blamed ferry operators for starting a price war with his company. I suspect that if he was in a business where a new rival virtually doubled capacities and tried to eliminate the competition, he ,too, might take action.

For those who might be terminologically confused between the car-carrying Eurotunnel and the train-running Eurostar, rest assured that the train operators are in fine financial health - not least because the Government has written off the British side's debts in advance of privatisation. Another reason Eurostar is such a success is the relatively low fares to Brussels and Paris, helped by the low fee (about pounds 10 a head) charged by Eurotunnel for the undersea link. So even rail travellers feel the benefits of the financiers' misfortunes. Happy subsidised travels.

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