The History of the Channel Tunnel, The Political, Economic and Engineering History of an Historic Railway Project

The Channel Tunnel was a controversial project and a major engineering challenge. One of the longest gestation periods for any engineering project that promised social and economic change – Strongly Recommended

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NAME: The History of the Channel Tunnel, The Political, Economic and 
Engineering History of an Historic Railway Project
FILE: R2744
AUTHOR: Nicholas Faith
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword 
BINDING: hard back 
PAGES: 223
PRICE: £25.00
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Transport, rail tunnel, Napoleonic Wars, United States of Europe, trade, 
cartel, protectionism, car train, lorry train, multi-national rail networks

ISBN: 1-52671-299-7

IMAGE: B2744.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/ydaq7jgx
LINKS:  
DESCRIPTION:  The Channel Tunnel was a controversial project and a major 
engineering challenge.  One of the longest gestation periods for any engineering
project that promised social and economic change -  Strongly Recommended

From the cliffs of Dover it is possible to see the French coast on a clear day across one of the busiest 
sea lanes in the world. Boats have provided a link for millennia and the sea ferries were for a time 
joined by the revolutionary hovercraft service and by an air ferry service for passengers and their 
vehicles. These services were very flexible and could be expanded or contracted to suit economic 
conditions and passenger demand. The only disadvantages were that sea ferries and hovercraft had to 
cross a heavy traffic flow of larger ships and were subject to extreme weather conditions that from time 
to time caused service to be suspended. The air service was also subject to weather conditions and the 
relatively high price of flying passengers and cars across the Channel. 

The alternative was to either build a bridge or a tunnel across the twenty odd miles of the Channel width 
at the shortest point. A bridge offered the benefit of using existing road infrastructure but the challenges 
of bridging a busy shipping lane and operating in very high winds did present real challenges to 
operations. A tunnel avoided these two major challenges, but introduced a number of other challenges 
which made the final decision difficult.

There were also some major political and military obstacles. As long as the only way to cross was by 
ferry or air, any military dangers could be easily and rapidly addressed as they had been for centuries. 
Once a bridge or tunnel crossed the Channel it was more difficult to defend against a surprise attack 
and day to day border security became a lot more difficult. In many respects, a permanent crossing was 
much more in the interests of France than of Britain.

Once the crossing had been established, it would present a significant investment that was likely to 
force continuing maintenance to preserve the investment, even at times when the economic operation 
might be in doubt. The existing ferry trade would be adversely impacted and there was a major question 
about the method of use. A bridge could be traversed by cars and lorries, subject to wind conditions, but 
the difficulties of adequate ventilation meant that it would be impractical to allow use by vehicles with 
combustion engines and the risks of a traffic incident would threaten the operation of the tunnel, possibly 
for extended periods, subject to the nature of the incident.

The end result was that any tunnel would need a train powered by electricity that could ferry vehicles. 
That introduced a number of benefits and difficulties. It would be logical to build a station in London 
and another in Paris, further opening the new link to capitals across Europe. That would require 
additional investment in stations and rail track, greatly adding to the cost of the project and spreading 
its impact beyond the tunnel heads.

The author has provided a thoroughly researched review of the history, from the first abortive attempts, 
to describe every aspect of the immense project. He has addressed the reasons for the first failures and 
the barriers to the eventually successful attempt, political, social, economic and engineering. The work 
on the successful project is reviewed in detail and the eventual success measured. The clear and readable 
text is supported by a very helpful photo plate section. This book is a must read for those interested in 
engineering and rail networks, but the full scope of the project should encourage a very wide readership.