DEPUTY PRIME Minister John Prescott gave the Channel Tunnel Rail Link a rumbustuous send off on Thursday last week.
Addressing a celebration party which included many of the people who have worked for years to bring the project to the start of construction, Prescott declared: 'We've had enough delay. We want to get on with the job. It is time to dig!'
Prescott turned a symbolic sod on the north bank of the Medway for stage one of the project from Cheriton to Pepper Hill junction and reiterated the Government's support for the rail link. 'It is completion of the whole link to London that we are committed to,' he said, adding: 'I expect this project to come in on time and to budget.'
Completion of stage one is set for July 2003 and will be bought by Railtrack in December that year.
Programme for stage two, crossing the Thames at Dartford, running through Essex and into extensive new tunnels to St Pancras, is scheduled for July 2007, whether or not Railtrack chooses to buy it.
Wayleave for the line is being bought in the name of the Secretary of State and is only leased to London & Continental Railways. Later, when pur-chased by the national railway owner, this transfers to Railtrack.
Eighty years after completion, the entire CTRL infrastructure reverts back to government ownership.