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November 19, 2010

Origins

Proposals and attempts

Key dates

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 UKrance 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 tunnelling 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 condensation affecting the trains’ electrical hardware

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 Aim Thom de Gamond performed the first geological and hydrographical surveys on the Channel, between Calais and Dover. Thom 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 GB7 million.

Thom de Gamond’s 1856 plan for a cross-Channel link, with a port/airshaft on the Varne sandbank mid-Channel

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 Beumont-English boring machine dug a 1,893-metre (6,211 ft) pilot tunnel from Shakespeare Cliff. On the French side, a similar machine dug 1,669 metres (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 defences. These early works were encountered more than a century later during the TML project.

In 1955, defence 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 EC membership, cost estimates had ballooned to 200% and the national economy was troubled. By this time the British Priestly TBM was ready and the Ministry of Transport was able to do a 300 m experimental drive. This short tunnel would however be reused as the starting and access point for tunnelling operations from the British side.

In 1979, the “Mouse-hole Project” was suggested when the Conservatives came to power in Britain. The concept was a single-track rail tunnel with a service tunnel, but without shuttle terminals. The British government took no interest in funding the project, but Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said she had no objection to a privately funded project. In 1981 British and French leaders Margaret Thatcher and Franois Mitterrand agreed to set up a working group to look into a privately funded project, and in April 1985 promoters were formally invited to submit scheme proposals. Four submissions were shortlisted:

a rail proposal based on the 1975 scheme presented by Channel Tunnel Group/Franceanche (CTG/F),

Eurobridge: a 4.5 km span suspension bridge with a roadway in an enclosed tube

Euroroute: a 21 km tunnel between artificial islands approached by bridges, and

Channel Expressway: large diameter road tunnels with mid-channel ventilation towers.

The cross-Channel ferry industry protested under the name “Flexilink”. In 1975 there was no campaign protesting a fixed link, with one of the largest ferry operators (Sealink) being state-owned. Flexilink continued rousing opposition throughout 1986 and 1987. Public opinion strongly favoured a drive-through tunnel, but ventilation issues, concerns about accident management, and fear of driver mesmerisation led to the only shortlisted rail submission, CTG/F-M, being awarded the project.

Arrangement

A block diagram describing the organisation structure used on the project. Eurotunnel is the central organisation for construction and operation (via a concession) of the tunnel

The British Channel Tunnel Group consisted of two banks and five construction companies, while their French counterparts, Franceanche, consisted of three banks and five construction companies. The role of the banks was to advise on financing and secure loan commitments. On 2 July 1985, the groups formed Channel Tunnel Group/Franceanche (CTG/F). Their submission to the British and French governments was drawn from the 1975 project, including 11 volumes and a substantial environmental impact statement.

The design and construction was done by the ten construction companies in the CTG/F-M group. The French terminal and boring from Sangatte was undertaken by the five French construction companies in the joint venture group GIE Transmanche Construction. The English Terminal and boring from Shakespeare Cliff was undertaken by the five British construction companies in the Trankslink Joint Venture. The two partnerships were linked by TransManche Link (TML), a bi- national project organisation. The Matre d’Oeuvre was a supervisory engineering body employed by Eurotunnel under the terms of the concession that monitored project activity and reported back to the governments and banks.

In France, with its long tradition of infrastructure investment, the project garnered widespread approval and in April 1987 the French National Assembly gave unanimous support and, in June 1987, after a public inquiry, the Senate gave unanimous support. In Britain, select committees examined the proposal, making history by holding hearings outside of Westminster, in Kent. In February 1987, the third reading of the Channel Tunnel Bill took place in the House of Commons, and was carried by 94 votes to 22. The Channel Tunnel Act gained Royal assent and passed into English law in July of that year.

The Channel Tunnel is a build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) project with a concession. TML would design and build the tunnel, but financing was through a separate legal entity: Eurotunnel. Eurotunnel absorbed CTG/F-M and signed a construction contract with TML; however, the British and French governments controlled final engineering and safety decisions. The British and French governments gave Eurotunnel a 55- (later 65-) year operating concession to repay loans and pay dividends. A Railway Usage Agreement was signed between Eurotunnel, British Rail and the Socit Nationale des Chemins de fer Franais guaranteeing future revenue in exchange for the railways obtaining half of the tunnel’s capacity.

Private funding for such a complex infrastructure project was of unprecedented scale. An initial equity of 45 million was raised by CTG/F-M, increased by 206 million private institutional placement, 770 million was raised in a public share offer that included press and television advertisements, a syndicated bank loan and letter of credit arranged 5 billion. Privately financed, the total investment costs at 1985 prices were 2600 million. At the 1994 completion actual costs were, in 1985 prices, 4650 million: an 80% cost overrun. The cost overrun was partly due to enhanced safety, security, and environmental demands. Financing costs were 140% higher than forecast.

Construction

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).

Tunnelling commenced in 1988, and the tunnel began operating in 1994. In 1985 prices, the total construction cost was 4650 million (equivalent to 10152 million 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.

Completion

The Channel Tunnel was opened in Calais on 6 May 1994 by British Queen Elizabeth II and French President Franois Mitterrand

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

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