LONDON & Continental Railways has been given until May 29 to come up with a satisfactory proposal for building the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott told Parliament on March 27 that he was extending the March 31 deadline (RG 4.98 p207) by two months.

LCR and Railtrack presented their latest plan to Prescott on March 25. This envisaged Railtrack underwriting the Dollands Moor to Ebbsfleet and Longfield (for Waterloo) section by agreeing to purchase it from LCR on completion in 2003. Railtrack would have had the option of buying the second section, where much of the cost is concentrated, at a later date.

LCR also proposed that Eurostar (UK) Ltd should be subsidised separately like the ex-BR passenger franchises. Operation would pass to a consortium of National Express, British Airways and SNCF. Virgin Group has put a separate proposal to Prescott to take over Eurostar (UK) Ltd.

Prescott told MPs that the latest proposal ’makes material inroads into the £1·2bn additional subsidy which was sought by LCR in January’, but he wanted a further reduction in ’the additional cost to the taxpayer’ and an increase in ’the extent to which risk is retained in the private sector’. While he has accepted the principle of phased construction, he says the proposal fails to establish ’an incentive sufficient to ensure the construction of the whole rail link’. o