Eurotunnel contract dispute edges closer to arbitration

Trans Manche Link (TML), the 10-company consortium which received a Eurotunnel contract claim of FF8 billion (£1 billion), has yet to appoint lawyers to defend it or make a formal response to Eurotunnel.

However, a TML source said the construction companies would be consulting their own lawyers prior to meeting to thrash out a joint response.

The claim is likely to be handled by the arbitration panel set up under the Channel Tunnel's disputes procedure. Where no agreement is found the dispute would then pass to the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) court of arbitration and it is at that stage that TML would be most likely to want to instruct external lawyers.

An ICC arbitration will charge fees geared to the level of the claim and time needed to arbitrate it. A fee on this claim could exceed £100,000, lawyers said last week. The fees would be split equally between Eurotunnel and TML, on top of the costs of instructing lawyers and expert witnesses, they said.

Eurotunnel is instructing Alan Gittins, a former Eurotunnel senior lawyer now at Nicholson Graham & Jones, to handle the claim. TML's former lawyers Masons would not comment and TML would not say whether Masons will be appointed.

Freshfields, which has handled Eurotunnel's claims and arbitration work since the earliest days, remains involved in on-going work and the firm could still be involved at some stage of the claim.

Freshfields partner Alan Redfern, who oversaw the firm's claims work for Eurotunnel, retired and joined the Bar earlier this year at Samuel Stamler QC's set at 1 Essex Court. Eurotunnel may decide to retain Redfern as counsel, if needed.

Freshfields partner Lindsay Marr, who still acts for Eurotunnel, said: “It's not that we have been suddenly disinstructed because of Alan Redfern's departure.”