Cross-channel train proposal thrown off track

The Channel Tunnel has had a chequered history, attracting equal amounts of criticism and praise since it was first proposed in 1802.

Today, reporters at The Engineer are overwhelmingly in favour of the tunnel, thinking it a convenient way to jump on the train to Paris, drink French wine and take a stroll around the Louvre.

But this wasn’t the case in 1881. In a damning report addressing the proposals put forward by a Sir Edward Watkin, The Engineer claimed that such a tunnel would not only compromise Britain’s national security, but would also be impossible to build.

“The Channel Tunnel would at once leave England open to invasion”

’It is not easy to believe that Sir E Watkin meant for his speech on the Channel Tunnel, delivered last Friday at a meeting of the shareholders of the South-Eastern Railway, to be taken quite seriously,’ said the report. ’The statement that it may be possible to drive a tunnel 7ft in diameter and 22 miles long under the sea in the space of five years makes a demand on our powers of belief to which they are not equal.’

It continued: ’One of the immediate effects of the speed on which Sir Edward Watkin did not count was to frighten a daily contemporary half out of its wits. The tunnel would leave England at once open to invasion; a hostile force might land near Dover, take possession of the English end of the tunnel and then it would be all up with us.’

With many people sharing these concerns, it took another century before the Channel Tunnel gained mass support. The eventual project was organised by Eurotunnel in 1987 with the construction cost of the project coming in at £4.6bn.