Then & Now: End of the line

Sunday 21 March 1993 00:02
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20 January, 1975: Anthony Crosland, Labour Environment Secretary, announced the end of the Channel tunnel project. The construction magazine 'New Civil Engineer' mourned its passing on 23 January:

'In the waning light of 20 January, the Channel Tunnel died. It was killed by a Labour government which found it politically and economically impossible to justify financing, even at reduced cost, the necessary high speed rail link between London and Dover in the midst of a deepening economic crisis . . . After Mr Crosland left the floor of the Commons, a profound dejection gripped the construction sites on both sides of the channel while accusations flew among politicians and tunnel officials in London and Paris. The only point of agreement was a sadness at the ignoble death of such a noble project. The Chunnel death warrant was signed just 16 hours before the permanent service tunnel drive was due to start . . .

'The key was the cost escalation of the rail link which led to its being dropped last November. Since profitability of the entire project hinged on this link its demise sent cold shivers down the bankers' backs as private funding prospects began to fade.

'But the rail link would have been financed entirely by the Government, and ministers were unable to face an investment of up to pounds 400m in the South East against other competing regional claims. When the Government killed the link, it knew it was killing the tunnel.'

16 March, 1993: Chancellor Norman Lamont announced government participation in a private sector-led project to build the Channel tunnel high- speed rail link at an estimated cost of pounds 3bn.

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