ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS' efforts to board Channel Tunnel freight trains in France have been threatening to disrupt delivery of rails for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL), project sources told NCE this week.
French security firms cut back freight deliveries from 100 a week to 40 through the tunnel last November to prevent illegal immigrants from boarding trains to carry them to the UK.
However this has meant that CTRL rail deliveries, which come from Germany through the tunnel to CTRL's Beechbrook Farm rail head in Ashford, have also been affected.
The cutbacks have seen engineers having to negotiate with freight company English Welsh & Scottish Railways (EWS) to ensure the rails arrive on time to keep tracklaying work on schedule.
This is because only a week's worth of rails are allowed to be stored on the Beechbrook site due to planning reasons.
Tracklaying has been under way since last December on the Kent section of the high-speed rail line project, running from Folkestone to Ebbsfleet.
CTRL systemwide contract manager David Bennett said that to date the programme had not been affected due to the company's negotiations and on average the site was receiving five deliveries of rails every two weeks.
But he added that on occasion supplies had been run down only hours before the next delivery had arrived.
EWS confirmed this week that it was doing everything it could to keep the rail deliveries up.
'We've managed to get the rails through because clearly noone wants to hold the project up, ' said EWS planning director Graham Smith.
'But, shall we say, it's been a fine call and has required a lot of attention so that deliveries do get through.'
Smith added however that until the security was improved at the French freight terminal at Frethun, freight deliveries were in the hands of the French railways.