THE CHANNEL FIXED LINK : LE PROJET DU SIÈCLE
Graham M. Winch
If the British and French really have some interest and aim in common, they will find a way of surmounting all those much-trumpeted cultural and traditional differences (Sir Nicholas Henderson, chair of Channel Tunnel Group and former British ambassador to France).
Thiscase study provides a description and analysis of the Channel Tunnel project with the aim of stimulating class discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of the project management of this extraordinary construction project. The data are drawn from both an extensive review of secondary sources, and from interviews conducted with key informants towards the end of 1993 within TML, and during 1995within Eurotunnel.
The case study will present the background to the project, and the complexities of the financial arrangements, before investigating the management of the project and the organisation of TML.
There are few projects against which there exists a deeper and more enduring prejudice than the construction of a railway tunnel between Dover and Calais.
Again andagain it has been brought forward under powerful and influential sponsorship. Again and again it has been prevented. Governments of every hue, Prime Ministers of every calibre, have been found during successive generations inflexibly opposed to it. To those who have consistently favoured the idea this ponderous and overwhelming resistance has always seemed a mystery. Winston Churchill, 1936.
Theidea of a fixed link between Britain and France was first mooted by a French engineer in 1802, much to the horror of the British military, who had recently secured the Peace of Amiens. Little came of the project and many of the others that were proposed over the years, save a collection of entertaining drawings. The first project to actually start digging was a railway tunnel which was begun in1880 by Watkin, the chairman of the South Eastern Railway in collaboration with the Chemin de Fer du Nord. Watkin's company, which became the Channel Tunnel Company in 1887, received a charter from Parliament for experimental works, in order to test the tunnelling technology. Watkin lobbied hard for a full rights and government finance for his activities, but increasing opposition from militaryprevented an extension of the charter. Although technologically feasible, on the basis of the triumphs of the railway tunnels through the Alps and the invention of the Beaumont/English tunnel boring machine, the project was defeated by weight of opposition on military grounds, and establishment opinion in cultural circles. The work stopped after an injunction had been served against Watkin in 1883after some 1800 metres had been bored at both Sangatte and Shakespeare Cliff.
Undaunted, engineers and entrepreneurs from both sides of the Channel put forward a wonderful variety of schemes over the next 80 years. These came closest to fruition in the period after World War I, when elements of military opinion realised that the existence of the tunnel would have been of considerable logisticalbenefit during the war, and provisions were made in the Versailles treaty for its construction. However, these proposals met a similar fate when establishment opinion mobilised against the project. The convolutions of this opposition on military grounds were extraordinary, but, this opposition was undoubtedly rooted in a cultural insularity that pervaded many sections of the British establishment. Itwas not until 1955 that Harold Macmillan, then Minister of Defence, stated categorically that there were no defence objections to the construction of a fixed link, but it still took another 40 years to realise the project.
In 1957, the Channel Tunnel Study Group was formed, including the concessionaire companies of the 1880 attempt, and a White Paper in 1963 (cmnd 2137) proposed an essentially...
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