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Phasing looms on boxed-in Thameslink

RAILTRACK'S FLAGSHIP Thameslink 2000 project could be scaled down and built in two phases due to uncertainty surrounding phase two of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, sources close to the scheme claimed this week.

Railtrack is understood to be looking at a number of scaled down options for starting Thameslink 2000 without the St Pancras box as a result of the decision to split CTRL into two phases (NCE 11 June).

Thameslink and CTRL are interlinked because passenger forecasts for the £600M Thameslink 2000 were based on a good interchange with CTRL. This was to have been provided by a new Thameslink station at St Pancras, built inside a government-funded box under CTRL phase two.

Industry sources put the chances of the whole Thameslink scheme going ahead on programme at only 'fifty-fifty'.

'Something will evolve over the next three months where Railtrack takes a view whether there could be a phase one and two to match the CTRL phase one and two,' said the source.

But senior sources close to the Thameslink scheme said it is not now known when the box will be built. If the Government decides to stick to the original agreement, Railtrack will be faced with phasing the scheme or postponing the whole project until CTRL phase two is built.

A multimillion pound design contract for the track, power supply, signalling and telecommunications for the whole Thameslink project - which should have been awarded at the end of April - is already on hold.

Gibb/WS Atkins/Kennedy & Donkin, which is preferred bidder for the 45 week package, was told just days before it was due to start work that the contract will now be reviewed at the end of September.

'The fact that CTRL has been phased has meant that the business case for Thameslink 2000 has fallen through. Everybody has stopped investing money in the scheme until they can see how to go forward,' said one source.

Kennedy & Donkin operations director Tony Mustard described the postponement as 'disappointing'.

'We put an awful lot of time and expense into the bid just to have it stopped - it's hit our bottom line in the last few months,' he said.

A spokeswoman for Railtrack said a decision on Thameslink cannot be taken until the company has reached financial close on the CTRL deal at the end of September. 'Part of our negotiations with Government is the timing of the St Pancras box, and until then it would not be prudent for us to let a multimillion pound contract,' she said.

When first conceived in the early 1990s, the project was originally planned to open by 2000, but the completion date had slipped back to 2004. Under the new CTRL agreement the earliest that phase two could be completed is the end of 2006.

Matthew Jones

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