Alliance calls Connect for Channel link lobby

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.

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

Pancras.



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

subsidies.



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.



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