WHILE APRIL 1998 is officially quoted as the start date for construction on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, it will be the end of the year before tunnelling begins.
But advance works by BT at Ashford start almost immediately to relocate cables in preparation for construction work on contract 430.
Preferred bidders for the first four, possibly five tunneling contracts will work under exclusivity deals with RLE engineers until contracts are signed in April. Boring machines will then be ordered and preparatory works kicked off.
Summer 1998 will be a delicate time for rail link operator London & Continental Railways as it launches its planned stock market flotation. All going well, this should generate enough money to take construction through to completion and eventual opening 2003.
CTRL still faces a legal challenge from north London residents forced to move house to make way for the route. They are seeking a judicial review over the compensation terms on offer and their case is expected to be heard at the High Court later this month. In the meantime the residents are expected to negotiate with Camden Council and the Department of the Environment Transport & the Regions over terms.