Edited by Gerald Boerner
We kick off this new month by exploring one of the new “Wonders of the World”, the railway tunnel beneath the English Channel. This Channel Tunnel (“Chunnel”) connects Dover region in Kent, UK, with the Pas-de-Calais region of France. This high-speed transportation connect serves passenger, motor vehicle, & freight needs.
For the passenger traffic, the ultra-modern, high-speed Eurostar (TGV-type) trains are used. When we traveled from London and Paris in 2001, what a surprise. The accommodations were fantastic (we were in First Class), the food was superb, & the wine was top notch. Even the Second Class accommodations were outstanding. While passing under the channel, one was aware only of the speed (up to 300 km/minute) and the gentle backing through the curves.
This engineering wonder was the result of the economic and technical cooperation of both France and England. It was a feat similar to that found in the construction of the Millau Viaduct, the world’s tallest bridge. The Eurostar is well worth taking if you have an opportunity to do so.
But now, let’s proceed with our exploration of the Channel Tunnel that was completed on this day in 1990. GLB
These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2010 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved
[ 3985 Words ]
Quotations Related to CHANNEL
“The Bristol Channel was always my guide, and I was always able to draw an imaginary line from my bed to our house over in Wales. It was a great comfort.”
— Roald Dahl
“The channel is known only to the natives; so that if any stranger should enter into the bay without one of their pilots he would run great danger of shipwreck.”
— Thomas More
“I know all about you. You’re the people waiting on the shoreline with the warm towels and the hot chocolate after the woman swims the English Channel.”
— Gwen Moore
“Conservatives were griping for decades about liberal media and nobody paid attention. Now, all of a sudden, one news channel has gotten a whole new community of people freaked out.”
— Michael K. Powell
“I demand for the unmarried mother, as a sacred channel of life, the same reverence and respect as for the married mother; for Maternity is a cosmic thing and once it has come to pass, our conversation must not be permitted to blaspheme it.”
— Ben Lindsey
“If we had, we would have realised sooner that Indigenous organisations are sometimes not the appropriate channel for programmes to help the stolen generations, because many of them play little part in Indigenous associations.”
— Malcolm Fraser
“It is time that we take control and find a way to curtail the explosive costs of health care. Small businesses deserve a chance to channel these funds toward other needs, such as expanding and creating more jobs for the economy.”
— Christopher Bond
“States have the responsibility to create rules and conditions for growth and development, and to channel the benefits to all citizens by providing education and making people able to participate in the economies, and in decision-making.”
— Anna Lindh
The Channel Tunnel (Chunnel) — Crossing UNDER the Channel
The Channel Tunnel (French: Le tunnel sous la Manche, also informally known as the Chunnel) is a 50.5-km (31.4 mi) undersea rail tunnel linking Folkestone, Kent near Dover in the United Kingdom with Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais near Calais in northern France beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover. At its lowest point, it is 75 m (250 ft) deep. At 37.9 km (23.5 mi), the Channel Tunnel possesses the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world, although the Seikan Tunnel in Japan is both longer overall at 53.85 km (33.46 mi), and deeper at 240 m (790 ft) below sea level.
The tunnel carries high-speed Eurostar passenger trains, Eurotunnel Shuttle roll-on/roll-off vehicle transport—the largest in the world—and international rail freight trains. The tunnel connects end-to-end with the LGV Nord and High Speed 1 high-speed railway lines. In 1996 the American Society of Civil Engineers identified the tunnel as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
Ideas for a cross-Channel fixed link appeared as early as 1802, but British political and press pressure over compromised national security stalled attempts to construct a tunnel. However, the eventual successful project, organized by Eurotunnel, began construction in 1988 and opened in 1994. The project came in 80% over its predicted budget. Since its construction, the tunnel has faced several problems. Fires have disrupted operation of the tunnel. Illegal immigrants and asylum seekers have attempted to use the tunnel to enter Britain, causing a minor diplomatic disagreement over the siting of the Sangatte refugee camp, which was eventually closed in 2002.
The Obstacle: The English Channel
The English Channel (French: la Manche) is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates Great Britain from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about 560 km (350 mi) long and varies in width from 240 km (150 mi) at its widest, to only 34 km (21 mi) in the Strait of Dover. It is the smallest of the shallow seas around the continental shelf of Europe, covering an area of some 75,000 km2 (29,000 sq mi).
Successful tunneling under the channel required a sound understanding of the topography and geology and the selection of the best rock strata through which to tunnel. The geology generally consists of northeasterly dipping Cretaceous strata, part of the northern limb of the Wealden-Boulonnais dome.
- Continuous chalk on the cliffs on either side of the Channel containing no major faulting, as observed by Verstegan in 1698
- Four geological strata, marine sediments laid down 90–100 million years ago; pervious upper and middle chalk above slightly pervious lower chalk and finally impermeable Gault Clay. A sandy stratum, glauconitic marl (tortia), is in between the chalk marl and gault clay
- A 25–30-m (82–98 ft) layer of chalk marl (French: craie bleue) in the lower third of the lower chalk appeared to present the best tunneling medium. The chalk has a clay content of 30–40% providing impermeability to groundwater yet relatively easy excavation with strength allowing minimal support. Ideally the tunnel would be bored in the bottom 15 m (49 ft) of the chalk marl, allowing water inflow from fractures and joints to be minimized, but above the gault clay that would increase stress on the tunnel lining and swell and soften when wet.
On the English side of the channel, the strata dip less than 5°, however, on the French side, this increases to 20°. Jointing and faulting is present on both the English and French sides. On the English side, only minor faults of displacement less than 2 m (7 ft) exist. On the French side, displacements of up to 15 m (49 ft) are present owing to the Quenocs anticlinal fold. The faults are of limited width, filled with calcite, pyrite and remolded clay. The increased dip and faulting restricted the selection of route on the French side. To avoid confusion, microfossil assemblages were used to classify the chalk marl. On the French side, particularly near the coast, the chalk was harder, and more brittle, and more fractured than on the English side. This led to the adoption of different tunneling techniques on the French and English sides.
- 1802… Albert Mathieu put forward a cross-Channel tunnel proposal.
- 1875… The Channel Tunnel Company Ltd began preliminary trials
- 1882… The Abbot’s Cliff heading had reached 897 yards (820 m) and that at Shakespeare Cliff was 2,040 yards (1,870 m) in length
- January 1975… A UK–France government backed scheme that started in 1974 was cancelled
- February 1986… The Treaty of Canterbury was signed allowing the project to proceed
- June 1988… First tunneling commenced in France
- December 1988… UK TBM commenced operation
- December 1990… The service tunnel broke through under the Channel
- May 1994… The tunnel was formally opened by HM The Queen and President Mitterrand
- Mid 1994… Freight and passenger trains commenced operation
- November 1996… A fire in a lorry shuttle severely damaged the tunnel
- November 2007… High Speed 1, linking London to the tunnel, opened
- September 2008… Another fire in a lorry shuttle severely damaged the tunnel
- December 2009… Eurostar trains stranded in the tunnel due to melting snow affecting the trains’ electrical hardware
Proposals and Attempts
In 1802, French mining engineer Albert Mathieu put forward a proposal to tunnel under the English Channel, with illumination from oil lamps, horse-drawn coaches, and an artificial island mid-Channel for changing horses.
In the 1830s, Frenchman Aimé Thomé de Gamond performed the first geological and hydrographical surveys on the Channel, between Calais and Dover. Thomé de Gamond explored several schemes and, in 1856, he presented a proposal to Napoleon III for a mined railway tunnel from Cap Gris-Nez to Eastwater Point with a port/airshaft on the Varne sandbank at a cost of 170 million francs, or less than £7 million.
In 1865, a deputation led by George Ward Hunt proposed the idea of a tunnel to the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day, William Ewart Gladstone.
After 1867, William Low and Sir John Clarke Hawkshaw promoted ideas, but none were implemented. An official Anglo-French protocol was established in 1876 for a cross-Channel railway tunnel. In 1881, British railway entrepreneur Sir William Watkin and French Suez Canal contractor Alexandre Lavalley were in the Anglo-French Submarine Railway Company that conducted exploratory work on both sides of the Channel. On the English side a 2.13-metre (7 ft) diameter Beaumont-English boring machine dug a 1,893-m (6,211 ft) pilot tunnel from Shakespeare Cliff. On the French side, a similar machine dug 1,669 m (5,476 ft) from Sangatte. The project was abandoned in May 1882, owing to British political and press campaigns advocating that a tunnel would compromise Britain’s national defenses. These early works were encountered more than a century later during the TML project.
In 1919, during the Paris Peace Conference, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George repeatedly brought up the idea of a Channel tunnel as a way of reassuring France about British willingness to defend against another German attack. The French did not take the idea seriously and nothing came of Lloyd George’s proposal.
In 1955, defense arguments were accepted to be irrelevant because of the dominance of air power; thus, both the British and French governments supported technical and geological surveys. Construction work commenced on both sides of the Channel in 1974, a government-funded project using twin tunnels on either side of a service tunnel, with capability for car shuttle wagons. In January 1975, to the dismay of the French partners, the British government cancelled the project. The government had changed to the Labour Party and there was uncertainty about EEC membership, cost estimates had ballooned to 200% and the national economy was troubled. By this time the British Priestly tunnel boring machine was ready and the Ministry of Transport was able to do a 300 m (980 ft) experimental drive. This short tunnel would however be reused as the starting and access point for tunneling operations from the British side.
Eleven tunnel boring machines, working from both sides of the Channel, cut through chalk marl to construct two rail tunnels and a service tunnel. The vehicle shuttle terminals are at Cheriton (part of Folkestone) and Coquelles, and are connected to the British and French motorways (M20 and A16 respectively).
Tunneling commenced in 1988, and the tunnel began operating in 1994. In 1985 prices, the total construction cost was £4.650 billion (equivalent to £11 billion today), an 80% cost overrun. At the peak of construction 15,000 people were employed with daily expenditure over £3 million. Ten workers, eight of them British, were killed during construction between 1987 and 1993, most in the first few months of boring.
Tunneling between England and France was a major engineering challenge, with the only precedent being the undersea Seikan Tunnel in Japan. A serious risk with underwater tunnels is major water inflow due to the water pressure from the sea above under weak ground conditions. The Channel Tunnel also had the challenge of time—being privately funded, early financial return was paramount.
Typical tunnel cross section, with a service tunnel between twin
rail tunnels. Shown linking the rail tunnels is a piston relief duct,
necessary to manage pressure changes due to the movement of trains
The objective was to construct: two 7.6-m (25 ft) diameter rail tunnels, 30 metres (98 ft) apart, 50 km (31 mi) in length; a 4.8-m (16 ft) diameter service tunnel between the two main tunnels; pairs of 3.3-m (11 ft) diameter cross-passages linking the rail tunnels to the service tunnel at 375-m (1,230 ft) spacing; piston relief ducts 2-m (7 ft) diameter connecting the rail tunnels at 250-m (820 ft) spacing; two undersea crossover caverns to connect the rail tunnels. The service tunnel always preceded the main tunnels by at least 1 km (0.6 mi) to ascertain the ground conditions. There was plenty of experience with tunneling through chalk in the mining industry. The undersea crossover caverns were a complex engineering problem. The French cavern was based on the Mount Baker Ridge freeway tunnel in the USA. The UK cavern was dug from the service tunnel ahead of the main tunnels to avoid delay.
Precast segmental linings in the main TBM drives were used, but different solutions were used on the English and French sides. On the French side, neoprene and grout sealed bolted linings made of cast iron or high-strength reinforced concrete were used. On the English side, the main requirement was for speed and bolting of cast-iron lining segments was only carried out in areas of poor geology. In the UK rail tunnels, eight lining segments plus a key segment were used; on the French side, five segments plus a key segment. On the French side, a 55-m (180 ft) diameter 75-m (246 ft) deep grout-curtained shaft at Sangatte was used for access. On the English side, a marshaling area was 140 m (459 ft) below the top of Shakespeare Cliff, and the New Austrian Tunneling method (NATM) was first applied in the chalk marl here. On the English side, the land tunnels were driven from Shakespeare Cliff, the same place as the marine tunnels, not from Folkestone. The platform at the base of the cliff was not large enough for all of the drives and, despite environmental objections, tunnel spoil was placed behind a reinforced concrete seawall, on condition of placing the chalk in an enclosed lagoon to avoid wide dispersal of chalk fines. Owing to limited space, the precast lining factory was on the Isle of Grain in the Thames estuary.
On the French side, owing to the greater permeability to water, earth pressure balance TBMs with open and closed modes were used. The TBMs were of a closed nature during the initial 5 km (3 mi), but then operated as open, boring through the chalk marl stratum. This minimized the impact to the ground and allowed high water pressures to be withstood, and it also alleviated the need to grout ahead of the tunnel. The French effort required five TBMs: two main marine machines, one main land machine (the short land drives of 3 km allowed one TBM to complete the first drive then reverse direction and complete the other), and two service tunnel machines. On the English side, the simpler geology allowed faster open-faced TBMs. Six machines were used, all commenced digging from Shakespeare Cliff, three marine-bound and three for the land tunnels. Towards the completion of the undersea drives, the UK TBMs were driven steeply downwards and buried clear of the tunnel. The French TBMs then completed the tunnel and were dismantled. A 900 mm gauge railway was used on the English side during construction.
In contrast to the English machines, which were simply given alphanumeric names, the French tunneling machines were all named after women: Brigitte, Europa, Catherine, Virginie, Pascaline, Séverine.
A small, two-inch (50-mm) diameter pilot hole allowed the service tunnel to break through without ceremony on 30 October 1990. On 1 December 1990, Englishman Graham Fagg and Frenchman Phillippe Cozette broke through the service tunnel with the media watching. Eurotunnel completed the tunnel boring on time, and the tunnel was officially opened one year later than originally planned by British Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterrand in a ceremony held in Calais on 6 May 1994. The Queen travelled through the tunnel to Calais on a Eurostar train, which stopped nose to nose with the train that carried President Mitterrand from Paris. Following the ceremony President Mitterrand and the Queen travelled on Le Shuttle to a similar ceremony in Folkestone. A full public service did not start for several months.
The Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL), now called High Speed 1, runs 69 miles (111 km) from St Pancras railway station in London to the Channel Tunnel portal at Folkestone in Kent. It cost £5.8 billion. On 16 September 2003 UK Prime Minister Tony Blair opened the first section of High Speed 1, from Folkestone to north Kent. On 6 November 2007 the Queen officially opened High Speed 1 and St Pancras International station, replacing the original slower link to Waterloo International railway station. On High Speed 1 trains travelling at speeds up to 300 km/h (186 mph), the journey from London to Paris takes 2 hours 15 minutes and London to Brussels takes 1 hour 51 minutes.
In 1996, the American Society of Civil Engineers, with Popular Mechanics, selected the tunnel as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
The Eurostar Trains
Eurostar is a high-speed passenger rail service connecting London with Paris and Brussels. All its trains traverse the Channel Tunnel between Britain and France, owned and operated separately by Eurotunnel.
The London terminal is St Pancras, with calling points at Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International in Kent. Calling points in France are Calais-Fréthun and Lille-Europe, with the main Paris terminus at Gare du Nord. Trains to Belgium terminate at Midi/Zuid station in Brussels. In addition, there are limited services from London to Disneyland Paris at Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy, and to seasonal destinations in southern France.
The service is operated by eighteen-coach Class 373/1 trains which run at up to 300 km per hour (186 mph) on a network of high-speed lines. The LGV Nord line in France opened before Eurostar services began in 1994, and newer lines enabling faster journeys were added later—HSL 1 in Belgium and High Speed 1 in southern England. The French and Belgian parts of the network are shared with Paris–Brussels Thalys services and other TGV trains. In the United Kingdom the two-stage Channel Tunnel Rail Link project was completed on 14 November 2007 and renamed High Speed 1, when the London terminus of Eurostar transferred from Waterloo International to St Pancras International.
Eurostar was until 2009 operated jointly by the national railway companies of France and Belgium, SNCF and SNCB, and Eurostar (UK) Ltd (EUKL), a subsidiary of London and Continental Railways (LCR), which also owns the high-speed infrastructure and stations on the British side. Eurostar has become the dominant operator in cross-channel intercity passenger travel on the routes that it operates, carrying more passengers than all airlines combined. Other operators have expressed an interest in purchasing EUKL, or starting competing services following deregulation in 2010. On 1 January 2010, Eurostar was incorporated as a single corporate entity called Eurostar International, replacing the joint operation between EUKL, SNCF and SNCB.
A 1996 report from the European Commission predicted that Kent and Nord-Pas de Calais had to face increased traffic volumes due to general growth of cross-Channel traffic and traffic attracted by the tunnel. In Kent, a high-speed rail line to London would transfer traffic from road to rail. Kent’s regional development would benefit from the tunnel, but being so close to London restricts the benefits. Gains are in the traditional industries and are largely dependent on the development of Ashford International passenger station, without which Kent would be totally dependent on London’s expansion. Nord-Pas-de-Calais enjoys a strong internal symbolic effect of the Tunnel which results in significant gains in manufacturing.
The removal of a bottleneck by means like the Channel Tunnel does not necessarily induce economic gains in all adjacent regions, the image of a region being connected to the European high-speed transport and active political response are more important for regional economic development. Tunnel-induced regional development is small compared to general economic growth. The South East of England is likely to benefit developmentally and socially from faster and cheaper transport to continental Europe, but the benefits are unlikely to be equally distributed throughout the region. The overall environmental impact is almost certainly negative.
Five years after the opening of the tunnel, there were few and small impacts on the wider economy, and it was difficult to identify major developments associated with the tunnel. It has been postulated that the British economy would have actually been better off without the costs from the construction project, both Eurotunnel and Eurostar, companies heavily involved in the Channel Tunnel’s construction and operation, have had to resort to large amounts of government aid to deal with debts amounted. Eurotunnel has been described as being in a serious situation.
Please take time to further explore more about the CHANNEL TUNNEL (CHUNNEL), the ENGLISH CHANNEL, the EUROSTAR TRAIN, and the TRANSPORTATION LINK BETWEEN THE UNITED KINGDOM (LONDON) & EUROPE (PARIS & BRUSSELS) by accessing the Wikipedia articles referenced below…
Other Events on this Day:
The presidential election goes to the U.S. House since neither John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, William Crawford, or Henry Clay had won an electoral majority (Adams is eventually chosen).
Abraham Lincoln reminds the nation that America is the “last best hope of earth” and demanded the end of slavery in America.
Thomas Edison’s film company releases The Great Train Robbery, the first western movie.
African American seamstress and NAACP activist Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white man aboard a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Although Parks is arrested, her actions spark the year-long Montgomery bus boycott and eventually the 1956 Supreme Court decision that will desegregate public transportation.
An airlift begins to bring thousands fleeing Castro’s Communist Cuba to the United States.
The World Health Organization inaugurates the first World AIDS Day to promote awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and to encourage prevention of the global disease. The initiative, first conceived by WHO public information officers James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, is among the longest-running public health awareness events in history.
Beneath the English Channel, Englishman Graham Fagg and Frenchman Philippe Cozette break through a service tunnel of the Channel Tunnel. The project is completed four years later with British Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterrand participating in the opening ceremonies.
Dates and events based on:
William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)
Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:
Wikipedia: Channel Tunnel…
Wikipedia: English Channel…
Brainy Quote: CHANNEL Quotes…