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BA offers to treble stake in Eurostar

BRITISH AIRWAYS will increase its stake in the Eurostar train operating consortium from 10% to 34% if it extends continental rail services to London's Heathrow airport.

Inter Capital & Regional Rail, of which BA is a shareholder, wants to scrap plans for a regional Eurostar service in favour of plans to run services from Heathrow, Watford and Kensington in west London.

BA's plans to increase its stake in the Eurostar operator surfaced as MPs questioned a consortium representative at a meeting of the all party Commons Transport subcommittee just before Christmas.

Committee member George Stevenson said he was suspicious about the fact that the Heathrow option emerged at the same time that BA decided to take a 10% stake in the consortium, whose other members are National Express, SNCF of France and SNCB of Belgium.

Stevenson told National Express director and ICRR representative Colin Child that regional services were required under the original Channel Tunnel Act.

'Many millions of pounds of public money have already been spent on rolling stock especially for that task,' he said.

ICRR submitted a report to the Government in November which said regional services to Manchester and Birmingham would not be 'economic' without substantial subsidy (NCE 5 November).

It recommended that new regional services be developed from Heathrow Airport, Watford and Kensington instead.

Child insisted that there was no conflict of interest between BA or National Express and regional Eurostar services.

'We wouldn't want to tear up any of the Act but we have an obligation to run a good business and maximise profits,' he said.

Department of Environment Transport and the Regions railways director Roy Griffins said the Government had received an alternative outline proposal from Virgin to run a full regional Eurostar service.

He said the Government would now carry out an urgent review of both proposals and would reach its conclusions 'early in the new year'.

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