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Eurorail questions legality of Railtrack bid

A ROW over Railtracks legal right to rescue the Channel Tunnel Rail Link has erupted between troubled operator London & Continental Railways and potential rescuer Eurorail.

Eurorail claims Railtrack cannot rescue the project within the terms of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act. This is disputed by LCR, which is considering whether to ask Railtrack to rescue it.

Under rescue scenarios considered by LCR, Railtrack would have to sell off the Eurostar franchise as its operating licence prevents it from running train services (NCE 5 February).

Railtrack is considered one of the front runners to rescue the CTRL. Last week its board confirmed interest in the project, and LCR said it was holding talks with the track operator. It also said that it was talking to all of the train operating companies to find a potential Eurostar operator.

But taking Eurostar out of the CTRL project would conflict with the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act which assumes the train service is part of the whole project, said Eurorail chief executive Keith Clarke.

He said that the whole project was set up assuming that the operator would use cashflow from the passenger trains to back up the finance package.

But LCR disagreed with Clarkes interpretation of the Act. External affairs director Jeremy Candfield said he had helped guide the legislation through parliament and saw no reason why another rail operator could not run the service.

Eurorail which comprises Kvaerner, Balfour Beatty and electricity supplier SEEBoard last week confirmed its interest in bidding for CTRL if it is put back out to competition. But Clarke said he would not bail out LCR before the 30 day rescue deadline elapsed.

Buying into LCR would mean buying into the concession that LCR admitted was not a viable proposition when they went to (Deputy Prime Minister) Prescott, he said.

Clarke also ruled out the possibility of a link with LCRs engineering division Rail Link Engineering, should Eurorail bid for the project.

RLE is a joint venture between Bechtel, Halcrow and Ove Arup & Partners. The staff of these three companies would be available to us anyway, said Clarke.

Clarke said that Eurorails ability to take over the design was not an issue. He said designs were not finished as RLE has asked contractors bidding for the work to help them complete this work during contract negotiations.

Andrew Bolton

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