A tunnel under the English Channel (1906)

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In 1906, there were already definite plans for a tunnel underneath the English Channel, connecting the countries of England and France. The concept had actually been around since the start of the 19th century, alas, it wouldn’t be until the year 1994 that this huge engineering project would finally be complete. The Chunnel as it exists today is 31.4 miles long, and connects Folkestone, Kent, England with Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais, France.

Boring under the English Channel

Will the proposed tunnel under the Straits of Dover ever be a realized fact? It certainly looks as if it would, and every effort is now being made to get Parliamentary sanction to put the project in hand, or rather to continue it, for twenty-five years ago the tunnel was actually commenced, but suddenly stopped in July 1882, as a result of the action of the Board of Trade. This body persuaded the government of that day that the scheme was a most unwise one. Great Britain’s splendid isolation from Europe, they said, must be preserved, or run grave risks.

Today the situation is completely a new one. France is England’s friend, Germany protests its love of peace, the ruler of Russia is calling the powers to a peace conference, England and Spain are now united by marriage, and King Edward has established himself as the friend of his own and all other peoples. There is no fear of invasion, and even if there were a prospect of invasion military and naval experts have shown that the tunnel would make practically no difference at all to the question.

The engineering part

So far as carrying out the project is concerned, the engineers have shown that the gray chalk in the Channel can be successfully bored. It would measure thirty miles in length, the distance between the international station at Dover and the corresponding terminus on the opposite shore at Sangatte, near Calais.

Correctly speaking, there would be two tunnels, as in the case of the Simplon. These would be twenty feet apart with cross galleries at intervals of a quarter of a mile, giving communication between them. Each tunnel would be eighteen feet in diameter, and the extreme depth below the bottom of the sea would be 150 feet. After following the dip of the chalk for about seven miles from Dover, the tunnel would reach its lowest point, and then would begin to rise at the rate of 1 inch in 1760 for five miles, and then a more gradual ascent until the French coast is reached. Throughout its whole length the tunnel would be lined with castiron tubing, to prevent any infiltration of water.

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France favors the scheme

So far as the French people are concerned, they favor the scheme, and are doing all in their power to get the project put in hand. Their engineers confirm the report of the English engineers that the gray chalk through which the tunnel would be bored is impermeable to water, and is deep enough for all the purposes of tunneling.

Then there must be taken into consideration the benefits of the tunnel to the trade of this country and of mid-Europe. To passengers, the railway communication would unquestionably be a great boon. They would have their choice — the boat or the train. There would be no more risk of a delay of two or three days at Dover or Calais owing to storm or fog.

Comfortable and continuous railway travel in an electrically-driven train through an electrically-lighted tunnel would take the place of a sea crossing which is seldom “hatefully smooth,” is often a source of agony, and is always a source of trouble and inconvenience. The London merchant could contemplate a visit to Paris in a train that would be a hundred feet under the bottom of the sea with the same equanimity as he now regards a run to Manchester; and one of the terrors of the tourist would be removed, for the Channel Tunnel would be a grand preventive of sea sickness.

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