13 JUNE 1998, Page 29


MY RAILWAY correspondent, I.K.Gricer, is smirking like Thomas the Tank Engine. He was telling us five months ago how to build a railway to the Channel Tunnel. Quite simple, really: 'Its counterpart in France runs from the coast to the Paris bor- der, where it joins the main line to the Gare du Nord.' So this railway should run from the coast to the London border, where it can join the main line to its handsome and convenient terminus at Waterloo. In the plan, though, the railway would run through and under East London at vast cost because Michael Heseltine believed that this would cheer up the local economy. (Only someone who habitually went around in big black cars could think that.) It would then reach St Pancras, because the lines there point northwards and it was impor- tant for northerners to feel involved. I.K.Gricer advised the contractors to get as far as the border and then follow Denis Healey's law of holes and stop digging. Now they will. The line across Kent goes ahead but the line across London joins Crossrail (a far better project) to gather rust in the siding. My correspondent adds that the French have had more sense than to dig a tunnel under Paris to the Gare de Lyons, where the tracks point southwards, so that the Nicois and other southerners could feel involved.