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Eurostar lobby slates 'unimaginative' ICRR

CAMPAIGNERS FIGHTING to save Eurostar services from the Midlands, the North and Scotland branded management consortium Inter Capital and Regional Railways 'unimaginative' this week, and claimed that regional Eurostar could be financially viable by 2002.

ICRR is formed from British Airways, National Express, French Railways and Belgian Railways. It reported to Government in November that Eurostar services from the North were not feasible and should be replaced with services from Heathrow, Watford and Kensington (NCE 5 November 1998).

But campaign group The Fast Tracks to Europe Alliance commissioned transport consultant Colin Buchanan and Partners to assess ICRR's study. It claimed that passenger assumptions were inappropriate, and that ICRR's cost predictions for regional services were inflated.

'We are concerned that ICRR used statistics from 1996 when passenger numbers were distorted due to the Channel Tunnel Fire at the end of the year,' said campaign co-ordinator Stephen Hoier. 'We are convinced that a viable package of services could be delivered by about 2002, given the growth of passenger demand for Eurostar.'

Fastracks submitted its findings in evidence to the all-party Commons transport sub-committee on Friday. It also claimed that half-train sets of seven carriages could be used to make the service viable for a tenth of the cost quoted by ICRR.

ICRR's price of £324M is based on buying seven new power units to meet the safety requirement of having a locomotive at each end of trains.

But Fastracks claimed this is only needed when the trains are in the Channel Tunnel, and that half trains could be joined at Kensington to form full length services.

Regional Eurostar services are a requirement under the original Channel Tunnel Act. The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions said the government was still considering the report, and would appoint its own consultants to carry out a review 'in the next few weeks.'

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