Connect Public Affairs has been appointed by a national consortium
of local authorities and businesses to lobby for the Channel tunnel rail
link to St Pancras. The link is under threat after the company
contracted to build it announced financial difficulties.
The Fast Tracks to Europe Alliance will launch this Friday in
Birmingham, with the aim of ensuring the link is built. Members include
the Thames Gateway Partnership - a consortium of east London local
authorities and business groups, Camden Council, the North Kent
Partnership and local authorities in York, Glasgow and Birmingham.
The 68-mile link through Kent and Stratford, east London, will connect
the Channel tunnel with the west coast mainline railway at Stratford and
with the east coast and Midlands mainlines at King’s Cross and St
Investment in areas directly touched by the link, believed to be up to
pounds 1 billion, is already underway.
The contract to build the high-speed link was awarded to London and
Continental Railways (LCR), which operates Eurostar, in 1996. But last
month LCR ran into funding problems and the Government’s refused to pay
it an extra pounds 1.2 billion. LCR has been given a week to come up
with a solution.
Since then, Railtrack has offered to build the link half way to London
and, most recently, Eurorail, the consortium which lost the initial
contest to build the link, has offered to take the whole project on but
with a delay of four years and pounds 2.3 billion in public
The debate escalated this week after unconfirmed reports that deputy
prime minister John Prescott was set to allow the high-speed link to be
built in two phases, the first being from the tunnel entrance to Kent,
the second from Kent to St Pancras.
In a parallel move Camden Council hired Lawson Lucas Mendelsohn for
advice on the rail link two weeks ago. Meanwhile, Central Railway Group,
which proposes an alternative rail link from London to the Channel
tunnel, has appointed City firm Tavistock Communications to handle PR.