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Old June 15th, 2005, 06:12 PM   #41
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UK: Eurotunnel's Raymond reveals split on strategy
By ROBERT WRIGHT
14 June 2005
Financial Times

Eurotunnel's outgoing chief executive yesterday launched an extraordinary attack on the company's recent direction as the board appointed Jacques Gounon to be chief executive in addition to his present post as chairman.

The events appeared to add a clear split on strategy to the existing bitter personality clashes that have caused severe problems for the board of the Channel Tunnel operator ahead of its annual meeting on Friday.

Jean Louis Raymond told a press conference yesterday, at which he was joined by Herve Huas, formerly deputy chief executive and now a non-executive director, that he would stand for chairman against Mr Gounon at Friday's meeting and put up a list of alternative directors should Mr Gounon be defeated.

Mr Raymond will have the support of Nicolas Miguet, the maverick financier and would-be politician who ran the campaign to unseat Eurotunnel's then Franco-British board at last year's annual meeting, replacing them with an entirely French board of largely inexperienced businessmen.

Mr Miguet had already for some months been running a campaign against confirming Mr Gounon's reappointment as chairman at the AGM.

Mr Raymond went on to call for coming renegotiations with creditors over the company's Pounds 6.4bn debt to be consensual. The present board's aggressive strategy towards creditors could only lead either to the company's bankruptcy or to creditors using their right to substitute their management for the company's in the tunnel's operation, he said.

"In that case, the big losers will be the shareholders and employees," he said.

Eurotunnel needs to renegotiate its debts before a cash crunch that is looming next year.

The new position is a significant reversal of the line Mr Miguet and his supporters took in the run-up to last year's AGM. Then, he told shareholders it was necessary to take a far harder line against creditors than the then board.

However, the latest stance is likely to be welcomed by creditors, who have been concerned by the extreme language Mr Gounon has been using in the run-up to the AGM. He has regularly called on creditors to forgive a majority of the company's debt for nothing in return.

Mr Miguet's appointees have gradually fallen out, since last year's AGM, with board members close to Adacte, a small French Eurotunnel shareholders' action group, whose appointees have made up the bulk of the board since last year's coup.

Mr Gounon is seen as being close to the Adacte-supporting members of the board, who continue to insist that a debt renegotiation can be carried out without diluting the company's existing shareholders' stakes. Most financial observers think that very unlikely.

As Mr Raymond and Mr Huas addressed yesterday's press conference, Eurotunnel announced that Mr Gounon was to take over as chief executive. Mr Raymond's resignation, announced on Friday, took effect from today's meeting.

It is not clear which side on the divided board will have more support at Friday's meeting - or whether the 25 per cent of shareholders needed for the meeting to be valid will vote.

Eurotunnel nevertheless welcomed yesterday statements from PIRC, ABI and ISS, corporate governance analysts, recommending that shareholders support the existing board at the meeting.

The recommendations look unlikely to make much difference to the voting intentions of Eurotunnel's shareholders, who are mostly French private shareholders.
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Old June 16th, 2005, 06:31 AM   #42
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Tunnel deepens UK-French divide
The French directors and shareholders must reach agreement with the mainly British and US debt holders
By ROBERT WRIGHT
15 June 2005
Financial Times

When French and British tunnellers met under the English Channel in December 1990, it was hailed as a transforming moment: the Channel Tunnel would bring France and Britain culturally and economically closer.

But as Eurotunnel, the tunnel operator, approaches a vital annual meeting this Friday, the venture has not only failed to bring the two countries closer together but has underlined their deep differences.

Crucial to Eurotunnel's future will be whether its French directors and mostly French shareholders can reach agreement with the mainly British and American holders of the company's Pounds 6.3bn (Euros 8.9bn) debt.

In spite of the fanfare that greeted the Channel Tunnel opening in 1994, Eurotunnel has struggled to make money. Higher-than-expected building costs and lower-than-expected traffic, especially on the Eurostar passenger services and international freight services, have left it with soaring debts.

The company needs a restructuring agreement to avoid insolvency next year or in 2007. Its revenues are set to fall sharply when agreements guaranteeing minimum income from rail operators expire in November 2006. At the same time, compulsory debt repayments start in 2006, with payments on most debt coming in 2007.

Yet, since last year's annual meeting on April 7, when angry French shareholders voted out the incumbent Franco-British board, the new, entirely French board's efforts to respond to shareholders' unhappiness over the creditors' demands have pushed the two sides further apart.

Relations have reached a new low in recent weeks after Jacques Gounon, chairman, asked creditors to forgive all but Euros 3.3bn of the company's debt.

People close to the main creditors' group have branded the demand economically illiterate and have warned that Mr Gounon is making it harder to persuade shareholders to accept the dilution of their shareholdings and loss of control that will result from any restructuring agreement.

If the company either defaults on debt or interest payments, or becomes insolvent, credit agreements give creditors the right to take over management of the tunnel and run it until their debts are repaid.

But Mr Gounon has said in many interviews that the French government and courts would never allow such a move - known as substitution - for such a politically sensitive company.

In an interview with the Financial Times, he dismisses the creditors' position as "Anglo-saxon". "We have to take care (bear in mind) that Eurotunnel is more a French company than a UK one," he says.

Creditors should look at the company's cash flows and agree the level of debt the cash flows are likely to repay over the life of Eurotunnel's concession to run the tunnel, which expires in 2086, Mr Gounon says. A further conversion of debt to equity - the last was in 1998 - would be unacceptable to shareholders.

"I'm just saying to the creditors, 'OK, if you want to make a substitution you will take over the company'," he says. "'But this will not change the cash flows and you will have on top of that to manage the company, which is not an easy task'."

Mr Gounon is backed by board members supported by Adacte, a French Eurotunnel shareholders' group. He now takes an even more hardline position than board members allied with Nicolas Miguet, a share tipster and would-be politician who led the revolt at last year's annual meeting.

At Friday's meeting Mr Gounon will face a challenge for the chairman's position from Jean Louis Raymond, an ally of Mr Miguet's, who on Monday resigned as chief executive. The board has appointed Mr Gounon to succeed Mr Raymond, naming him executive chairman.

Mr Miguet, who last year branded the creditors "banksters" in a populist campaign, now accepts that some dilution of shareholders' interests is inevitable.

At the heart of the problems is the unusual shareholding and debt structure of Eurotunnel. When the company was awarded the concession to build the Channel Tunnel in 1986, private shareholders in France - where publicity guaranteed nearly risk-free returns - bought far more shares than British individuals.

About 1m private French shareholders - against 100,000 in the UK - have retained shares in the hope of one day making a return.

Much of the debt has been sold below face value to speculative investors, such as hedge funds, who are likely to take a very tough line in restructuring talks.

Mr Gounon's campaign for a debt write-off and against further shareholder dilution has echoed French shareholders' worries but alienated debt-holders.

To have any chance of rescuing Eurotunnel from insolvency, however, the board will need to sell at least one agreement diluting shareholders' interests very soon.

The company has the right to convert Pounds 500m of debt held in so-called stabilisation notes into equity at one share for every Pounds 1.14 of debt - well above Eurotunnel's current 16 1/4p share price - by the end of this year.

The conversion must be approved at an extraordinary meeting, which must be called by October.

Yet Mr Gounon doubts shareholders would agree even to such an advantageous dilution, let alone the more comprehensive agreement necessary to stabilise the company.

It is a position that has gradually exasperated creditors. They now appear more ready than before to consider substitution to remove an erratic management.

Even a new management led by Mr Raymond might struggle to complete a comprehensive restructuring agreement in the little time Eurotunnel has left to secure one. The last restructuring took 18 months.

Creditors also fear they might, as Mr Gounon suggests, face problems from the French government and courts if substitution becomes necessary.

The tunnel has significant further scope to deepen the Franco-British divide.
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Old June 16th, 2005, 08:58 PM   #43
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Eurotunnel's Raymond to propose board of 3 British, 6 French people
16 June 2005

PARIS (AFX) - Jean-Louis Raymond will propose three British and six French people as directors of Eurotunnel SA/PLC when he mounts his challenge to win the chairmanship of the debt-laden Channel tunnel operator at tomorrow's AGM, he said on BFM radio.

Raymond, who resigned as chief executive last Friday after falling out with acting chairman Jacques Gounon, did not name the people he will put forward for the nine-member board.

He said he has not sought the support of Nicolas Miguet, the shareholder who is leading the campaign to block the confirmation of Gounon as head of the company.

Raymond announced on Monday that he will challenge Gounon for the post a will put forward of full slate of nominations for all places on the board.

Eurotunnel investment units rose amid strong demand today as voting for the rival candidates for the chairmanship was thrown into confusion when the company said some shareholders have voted twice.

At 1.57 pm, Eurotunnel was up 0.02 eur or 8.00 pct at 0.27 eur with 10.3 mln units traded as the CAC-40 index added 17.09 points or 0.51 pct to 4,201.45.

A Eurotunnel spokesman told AFX News that some people have filled in proxy voting forms sent out by Miguet and have also submitted proxy forms direct to the company.

Although Miguet is a convicted fraudster the spokeswoman said there is no indication that the double voting is attempted fraud.

It is too early to assess the scale of the duplicate voting, she said.

Eurotunnel announced earlier that as of 5.00 pm yesterday its agents had received proxies and votes from more than 75,000 shareholders, representing a provisional quorum of over 40 pct for tomorrow's annual general meeting.

Tabulation of the proxies is continuing 'due to the appearance of a certain number of doubles', it said, without giving details.

At the previous AGM, in April last year, rebel shareholders voted out the entire board.

Eurotunnel has until July 15 to submit proposals to creditors for restructuring its 9 bln eur debt.

Gounon wants the debt written down to 3.3 bln eur and has predicted the company could collapse as soon as October if no agreement is reached.
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Old June 24th, 2005, 07:50 AM   #44
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Eurotunnel pleads for removal of government 'constraints'
Angela Jameson
21 June 2005
The Times

Eurotunnel will approach the French and British Governments for help to get back on its feet, once the company has agreed the outline of a restructuring plan with its creditors.

Jacques Gounon, executive chairman of the Anglo-French Channel Tunnel group, said yesterday that he hoped certain "constraints" that prevent the debt-laden Eurotunnel from increasing its revenues could be removed.

"Some government involvement could be helpful on specific tax issues for example," M Gounon told British shareholders who attended an information meeting in London.

"I have been upset to see that nothing has changed since 1987. We still have the same constraints we had ten years ago, even though everyone knows that world has fully changed."

A spokesman for the company said that Eurotunnel was looking for an easing of red tape, such as the requirement to run one shuttle per hour even if it is empty. It also wants a lifting of restrictions that make it difficult for Eurotunnel to become a fully fledged railway operator in its own right.

M Gounon has said that Eurotunnel, which is struggling under the weight of its Pounds 6.3 billion debt, could compete with other international operators or run a freight operation, as a way of kickstarting traffic through the tunnel.

Ruling out a direct government bailout, M Gounon's comments raised the prospect that the company could implement elements of Project Galaxie, the rescue solution proposed by the former British management team. The Galaxie plan, rejected last year, envisaged Eurotunnel joining forces with another transport infrastructure company, such as London & Continental Railways, in a complex financial deal that would allow it to restructure its debt.

There was support for M Gounon from most British shareholders, who were impressed by the French engineer's handling of the meeting and some very early improvements in operations.

"(M) Gounon has shown leadership and guts," Tony Hein, a member of the British shareholder committee, said. "His approach is bullish and who knows whether he will pull it off, but what this company really needs is a period of stability, so that it can be given a chance."

There was applause for M Gounon when he told investors to "please forget" Nicolas Miguet, the French maverick investor who has been leading shareholder activism in France. M Miguet's decision to give his votes to M Gounon on Friday secured the chairman's overwhelming victory at the annual meeting in northern France.

"M Miguet is part of the past and I have no comment to make about his behaviour," M Gounon said.

The executive chairman said that he expected Herve Huas, the former finance director, and Jean-Louis Raymond, the former chief executive, to resign the board positions they have just been elected to, as soon as Friday.

"They tried to push me out, fully supported by M Miguet. If they have any sense of honour they will resign," M Gounon said.

The meeting heard that 2005 had started well and that Eurotunnel was on track to meet or to beat annual business targets for its car, coach and truck shuttles.
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Old June 26th, 2005, 12:42 AM   #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Englishman
That sucks. Bloody French labour laws meaning cuts have to be in hte UK. Still it shows how a company might be more inclined to employ people in the UK than France.
But eurotunnel employs more in britain than in France anyway, isn't this right?
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Old July 7th, 2005, 03:50 AM   #46
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EU Wants to Spend EUR 5 Billion to Upgrade Rail Networks

EU head office to spend EUR5 billion on single Europe-wide rail system
4 July 2005

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - The European Union head office said Monday it wants to spend euro5 billion (US$6 billion) to upgrade European railway networks, setting up a single rail signaling system on transnational rail routes to improve service.

EU spokesman Stefaan De Rynck said national rail networks still posed technical problems to creating a seamless rail system across the continent.

"Currently we have more than 20 different signaling systems in Europe, speed control systems that operate on trains," said De Rynck.

He said the European Commission was willing to help pay for 50 percent of the investment cost to set up the so-called European Rail Traffic Management System, which will lay out a single network so trains can cross borders without having to switch locomotives.

De Rynck said the Commission was looking to invest euro500 million (US$604 million) a year over 10 years -- totaling euro5 billion (US$6 billion) -- to upgrade some 20,000 kilometers (12,400 miles) of rail track. He said some of that money would have to come from the railway sector.

The Commission hopes to get its share of the funding from the EU's 2007-2013 budget, but negotiations over the new budget collapsed at an EU leaders summit last month.

The Commission has said using one signal system will provide more effective and speedier rail transport for cargo and passenger services and will reduce maintenance costs. It said however substantial investment was needed to get as many EU countries to make the switch as soon as possible to make the new network feasible.

The new signals system would also benefit from the EU's global satellite navigation system, Galileo, which is to be launched later this year. Trains equipped with new signaling software will be able to use the navigation system to determine their speed and location.

New lines are set to open first in Spain, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands later this year. Between 2007 and 2008 other projects in France, Britain and Greece are expected to come on line.
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Old July 19th, 2005, 11:36 PM   #47
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Eurostar 1H Passenger Numbers +8%, Sales GBP245M
19 July 2005
Dow Jones International News
Edited Press Release

LONDON (Dow Jones)--Eurostar, the cross-channel train operator, said Tuesday it carried 3.68 million passengers in the first half of 2005, an 8% rise on the previous year. Sales rose 14% to GBP245 million.

Eurostar is channel tunnel operator Eurotunnel's (ETL.LN) largest customer.
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Old July 20th, 2005, 12:22 AM   #48
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/\ great news
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Old July 20th, 2005, 02:05 AM   #49
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Aren't there two components to the whole "Chunnel" thing? One is the well known high speed train from London to Brussels and Paris. But the other is the train that carries trucks loaded with products between the entrance/exit in England to the entrance/exit in France. I'm sure that this second part of the Chunnel must be doing well, because it doesn't have to compete with low-cost flights.
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Old July 20th, 2005, 02:09 AM   #50
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Finally good news...
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Old July 20th, 2005, 10:37 PM   #51
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I'm afraid not. The problem is that the whole enterprise is saddled huge amounts of debt. When the project was announced the wildly over predicted the amount of passengers on the Eurostar and cross channel traffic.

Then the tunnel ended up costing twice as much as predicted.

Now when the first contracts were signed with eurostar (the high speed train link) the various national rail comapnies promised to pay a minimum amount to Eurotunnel (owners of the tunnel and shuttle). This would have been fine if the predicted 16 million customers had turned up. But in fact they have been lucky to break 7 million recently. So Eurostar was saddled with high fixed costs. Now this agreement runs out within a year and eurostar will be free to pass access charges that actually reflect use. With the stage two of the channel tunnel rail finished in 2007 this will provide another boost as it will cut another 15 minutes from the journey. But even with a big growth in passengers it will be a while before they need to run more services as the trains only run half full at the moment.

Of course turn around in Eurostars fortunes spells impending doom for Eurotunnel. The high access charges are the only thing keeping the company afloat. While the shuttle does transport a large number of vehicles, the ferry companies did not roll over and die as expected. They invested in large new ships and played up the leisure aspect of travelling by ferry rather in steel tube underground. A fierce price war has cut profit margins drastically. A showdown is now developing between Eurotunnels shareholders and the banks. A part from vulture funds institional investors have largely dumped eurotunnel leaving the company largely owned french small investors. The old board was ousted by a shareholder revolt, when the board said there would have to be a debt for equity swap if they wanted to restructure the debt. The new board who have been criticised for being inexperienced have proposed that the bank take a two thirds loss on the £6 billion debt. The reaction from the banks has been cool to say the least. The shareholders have no choice. They either accept the loss of most of their equity now, or when the company is declared bankrupt the banks have first call on the assets and the shareholders are left with nothing.
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Old July 21st, 2005, 03:06 AM   #52
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^Very interesting!!^ Thanks for a very comprehensive and clear answer to a difficult problem.

It's too bad that the Eurostar is facing so many hurdles. I really would love to ride it from Central London to Central Paris someday.
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Old July 22nd, 2005, 01:02 AM   #53
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i rode it last sunday and monday, that's so ql going in any 2hours and 40minuts from london to paris. it's better than to fly, 'cause u don't have to ride so far away from the city to the airport wasteing your time.

does anybody know how many km are there between Lnd and Prs by eurostar line???
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Old July 22nd, 2005, 03:35 PM   #54
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Eurostar should make better deals with Thalys for passengers from Cologne, Aachen, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and surrounding cities and it should make good deal with High Speed Alliance (company for the new high speed track from Amsterdam to Brussels) to attract more customers from The Netherlands.

Simple, clear and affordable package deals will attrack a lot of customers.
I live only 5 min. bij tram and 7 min. by train to Amsterdam airport, but going by normal train to Brussels and then to London by Eurostar takes the same ammount of time then going by airplane, waiting at the arport, checking in at the airport, going from a London airport to London city.
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Old August 23rd, 2005, 08:22 PM   #55
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About time the EU came up with some funds to upgrade the Greek train lines. They should also build a train bridge next to the Rio/Antirio automotive bridge.
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Old October 26th, 2005, 03:39 PM   #56
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HSR Co-operation in Europe : Eurostar + Thalys

High-speed rail groups couple up in Europe push
By ROBERT WRIGHT
26 October 2005
Financial Times

Europe's two leading international high-speed train operators are to offer joint ticketing and shared loyalty cards as they prepare for a major expansion of Europe's dedicated high-speed rail network.

Eurostar - which operates mainly between London and Paris and Brussels - and Thalys - which operates mainly between Paris and Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne - will call the airline-style co-operation deal RailTeam.

The move appears to mark Eurostar's abandonment of plans to launch London-Amsterdam services when the HSL Zuid dedicated high-speed rail line from Antwerp to Amsterdam opens.

Opening had been scheduled for 2007 but now looks set to be postponed until 2008.

Instead of travelling directly from London to destinations east of Brussels, passengers will change at Brussels for Thalys services.

Observers of Europe's rail scene will welcome the greater co-operation which many had thought long overdue because of the significant common interests of the two operators. Eurostar is controlled by a consortium led by SNCF, the French state rail operator, with 55 per cent, LCR, a government-backed British company, with 40 per cent, and SNCB, the Belgian state train operator, with 5 per cent.

Thalys is 70 per cent owned by SNCF and 30 per cent by SNCB, although it also co-operates with NS, the Dutch state train operator, and Deutsche Bahn, the German state train operator.

Both operators' services are set to be transformed by the opening of new sections of line.

The second section of the UK's Channel Tunnel Rail Link from London to the Channel Tunnel will cut 15 minutes off journeys to continental Europe when it opens in 2007, while a new section of Belgium's high-speed route from Leuven to near the German border, also due to open in 2007, will reduce Brussels-Cologne train times.

The 100km Antwerp-Amsterdam line is presenting significant technical challenges for Thalys, which will have to adapt its 300kph trains to understand a new EU-wide signalling system being used on the line.
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Old October 26th, 2005, 05:08 PM   #57
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Oh good idea! It'll make travelling to Koln-Cologne much easier for me
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Old October 26th, 2005, 07:47 PM   #58
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To bad North America has nothing like this. flying is so expensive!
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Old October 27th, 2005, 12:51 AM   #59
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To bad Eurostar won't go to Amsterdam, I thought that those plans where pretty definite. But this is more logical, cost and operational wise.
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Old December 7th, 2005, 06:02 PM   #60
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Portugal govt estimates Lisbon's 2 high speed rail links to cost 7.2 bln eur
7 December 2005

LISBON (AFX) - The construction of high speed rail links connecting Lisbon with Madrid and with Porto, due to be operational by 2013, is estimated to cost around 7.2 bln eur, the Portuguese press reported, citing a government study.

The construction of the Lisbon-Madrid link is expected to cost the Portuguese side 2.2 bln eur, while the Lisbon-Porto line is expected to cost almost 5 bln eur, the daily Publico reported.

According to the study, the high-speed rail link between Portugal's two main cities, with a journey time of less than an hour and a half, is expected to attract almost 6 mln passengers per year, while the Lisbon-Madrid link is expected to have 5 mln passengers per year.

The Publico newspaper questioned whether the investment will be profitable, comparing it to the cost of a new international airport near Lisbon scheduled for 2017, which is estimated at 3 bln eur.

The Portuguese prime minister is expected to confirm the two rail projects today, with construction work due to start in 2008 and to be completed by 2013.
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