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CTRL faces skills battle as French TGV gathers pace

CONSTRUCTION OF France's high speed TGV railway line between Paris and Strasbourg could strip the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) of key track and signal staff, it emerged this week.

French teams are currently heavily involved on the 78km Section one of the project between north Kent and the Channel Tunnel, on hire from state rail company SNCF because of UK skills shortages.

Section One is due for completion in 2003 but key track laying between 2005 and 2007 for CTRL's 39km Section Two from north Kent into London clashes with signalling work on SNCF's 406km TGV Est line from Paris to Strasbourg.

Mwany of these French engineers could be recalled, warned Systra UK director Jacques Abel. Systra is an SNCF subsidiary and a shareholder in CTRL project manager and designer Rail Link Engineering (RLE).

SNCF has supplied 31 staff to signalling contractor Amey and 15 staff to tracklaying contractor Amec/Spie. But Abel said that SNCF would be unable to provide enough staff for CTRL Section two and the TGV Est. 'We but usually build just one line, not two at the same time, ' he said.

'The CTRL is important to SNCF as it is the London to Paris line, but it is likely that its priority will be its own work, ' he said.

RLE is trying to tackle the shortage by sending British engineers to France for training.

Systra has sent six British RLE engineers on a French high speed line signalling course which includes several months at SNCF's training school.

Abel said that at worst, tracklayers and signallers would have to be sourced from other countries.

Nina Lovelace INFOPLUS www. rail

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