Aquind, a company that has donated more than £240,000 to the Tory party, and which has a director, Alexander Termerko, who has donated £1.3m to the Tories, is awaiting a government decision on its plan to invest £1.2bn on a new power connector under the Channel.
According to the Times, there is a "Russian tycoon" behind the project, whom senior Tories - such as Iain Duncan Smith - want outed, in the wake of last week's report by parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee into alleged Russian meddling in the UK's democratic processes. Against that backdrop, I've been given details of a rival project to connect the power systems of France and the UK - by Getlink, the company that owns Eurotunnel - that is significantly further advanced than Aquind's but where regulatory approval has been delayed.Getlink has already spent €500m on the connector and could be operational by the middle of next year. But regulatory approval from the British authorities has not been given, for reasons its directors find difficult to understand.Under the treaty creating the tunnel, an Intergoverrnmental Commission (IGC) of the UK and French governments, and an associated Channel Tunnel Safety Authority (CTSA) have to approve projects that use the tunnel's infrastructure (the new cable would go through the tunnel).One GetLink source told me: "The French safety authority have agreed but we cannot drag an answer from the British side."Just over two weeks ago, a letter to Getlink's chairman Jacques Gounon, from Geoffrey Podger, of the UK arm of the IGC, said there had been "much unavoidable delay as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak" notwithstanding the "considerable efforts...to make maximum use of video conferencing to continue to progress the work". Mr Podger apologised by saying: "We have no choice but to proceed in a step by step process which cannot properly be truncated."According to my Getlink source, there is much scratching of heads at the company about why the decision has not been taken. "We don't understand it," he said.