London & Continental Railways, the consortium appointed by the government to build the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, this week insisted that the £2.5bn second stage would not be jeopardised by Railtrack's financial difficulties.
LCR was responding to Railtrack's suggestion that it would pull out of its commitment because of its post-Hatfield cash crisis.

The original deal was that Railtrack would purchase both phases after completion, with the option to buy the second phase expiring in 2003. LCR now says that it is "exploring alternative financing structures which may or may not involve Railtrack", but would not be drawn on the specifics.

This follows Railtrack's announcement that the Hatfield rail crash has cost the firm £600m so far. The loss will be borne by shareholders.

LCR announced that the first major contracts for the £2.5bn second phase of the CTRL, extending the line into London St Pancras, will be awarded this month.

A further three large works contracts will be awarded in February and construction of the second phase will begin in July as planned.

Section one of the CTRL runs from the Channel Tunnel to Fawkham Junction in Kent and is scheduled for completion in 2003. The extended link to London St Pancras is due to open in 2007.