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Channel Tunnel champion Morton dies at 66

CONTRACTORS INVOLVED with the Channel Tunnel expressed sorrow and admiration for former Eurotunnel cochairman Sir Alastair Morton, who died suddenly last week aged 66.

Morton is widely credited with getting the tunnel built in the face of huge odds.

After joining Eurotunnel in 1997 to head up the clients construction team, he waged an almost continuous battle against contractors' claims and cost increases.

But at the same time his role meant keeping the project's 225 lending banks on board as Eurotunnel struggled to keep the massive £10bn project afloat financially.

'Delivering the Channel Tunnel always looked like a horrendous task, ' he once told NCE.

In response to this pressure, Morton was renowned for his aggression, bullying tactics and, at times, charm when dealing with the 10 contractors making up the Anglo French Transmanche Link (TML) consortium building the project.

British contractors in the consortium were Balfour Beatty, Costain, Tarmac and Wimpey.

Hard, often bruising confrontations were the norm as Morton sought to keep a lid on cost increases and get the project finished.

'He was very tough and could be an aggressive negotiator, ' recalls former Tarmac chief executive Sir Neville Simms.

'Some people did not like that style but it never really worried me.'

Simms paid tribute to the fact that despite the acrimony, Morton ensured that the contractors made a profit at the end of the day.

Others expressed respect for his achievements if not his methods. 'He was very outspoken and did some unethical things, but he got things done, ' said former Wimpey chief executive Joe Dwyer.

Morton later took his tenacity and commitment with him to the Treasury's private finance task force where he helped the Conservatives and then New Labour kick start the private finance initiative.

His spell as chairman of the fledgling Strategic Rail Authority was less distinguished, mainly it appears because the of the government's failure to follow up the ambitions of its own transport policy.

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