Page:EB1911 - Volume 09.djvu/489

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457
ENGLISH CHANNEL

mile west of the South Foreland light, and Sangatte on the French coast, 4 m. W. of Calais, the Dover grey chalk was continuous from side to side, and he considered that this stratum, owing to its comparative freedom from water and the general absence of cracks and fissures, offered exceptional advantages for a tunnel. He and Thorne de Gamond joined forces, and their plans were adopted by an international committee whose object was to popularize the idea of a tunnel both in England and France. Its engineers on the English side were Lowe, Sir James Brunlees and Sir John Hawkshaw, the last of whom in 1866 had made trial borings at St Margaret's and near Sangatte; and on the French side Thomé de Gamond, Paulin Talabot and Michael Chevalier. In 1868 they reported that there was a reasonable prospect of completing the tunnel in ten or twelve years at a cost not exceeding ten millions sterling. They admitted, however, that there was some risk of an influx of the sea, but pointed out that this risk could be determined by driving preliminary driftways, as suggested by Lowe, and for this purpose asked for financial aid from the imperial treasury. A commission of inquiry then appointed by the French ministry of public works reported favourably on the plans, though it declined to recommend a grant of money; but the further progress of the scheme was interrupted by the outbreak of the Franco-German war.

The tunnel was by no means the only plan in evidence at this period for securing continuous railway communication between England and France. An iron tube, resting on the bottom of the sea, had been proposed by Tessier de Mottray in 1803, and had again been considered by Thomé de Gamond in 1833; but after 1850 projects of this kind might almost be counted by the dozen. Some of the structures were to be of iron, others of concrete or masonry, and some were to be floated a moderate distance below the surface. One of the most carefully worked out plans was that of J. F. Bateman and J. Revy, who proposed to construct a continuous tube, 13 ft. in internal diameter, of iron rings each 10 ft. long, each ring being built out from the completed portion of the tube by means of a horizontal chamber or bell, which slid telescopically over the last few rings previously put in place, and was moved forward by hydraulic power. About the same time Zerah Colburn produced plans for a tube constructed of loon ft. sections, which were to be built in dry dock and then successively attached by a ball and socket joint to the completed portion, the whole being raised from the bottom and dragged out to sea, by the aid of a large number of ships, as each section was attached and launched. Thomas Page, again, the builder of Westminster Bridge, proposed to place eight conical steel shafts at intervals across the Strait of Dover, and to connect them by long sections of tube lowered from the surface, the whole structure being covered with concrete when finished. No attempt was made to put any of these plans into execution, and the same was true of several bridge schemes propounded about the same time; in one of these, spans one-half or three-quarters of a mile in length were contemplated, while another required 190 towers, 500 ft. apart and rising 500 ft. above the water-level, which obviously would have constituted an intolerable nuisance to navigation. The case, however, was different with a train ferry which was vigorously advocated by Sir John Fowler. His proposal was to employ steamers 450 ft. long, with a beam of 57 ft. and a speed of 20 knots, having railway lines laid down on their decks on and off which railway vehicles could be run directly at each side of the strait. Dover was to be the English port, while on the French coast a new harbour was to be formed at Audresselles, between Calais and Boulogne. This plan in 1872 received the sanction of the House of Commons, but was rejected in the House of Lords by the casting vote of the chairman of the committee. According to another similar ferry scheme, which was worked out by Admiral Dupuy de Lôme in 1870, a new maritime station was to be constructed at Calais, so far off the shore that it would command deep water at every state of the tide, and connected with the French railways by a bridge.

After the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian War, negotiations concerning the tunnel were resumed between the French and British governments, and in 1872 the latter intimated that it had "no objection in principle." After some further communications between the two governments in 1874, settling the basis on which the enterprise should be allowed to proceed, a joint commission was appointed to arrange details relating to jurisdiction, the right of blocking the tunnel, &c., and this commission's report was accepted as a basis of agreement between the governments. In 1875 the Channel Tunnel Company obtained an act authorizing it to undertake certain preliminary works at St Margaret's Bay. In the same year the French Submarine Railway Company obtained a concession, with the obligation to spend a minimum of 2,000,000 francs in making investigations; in fact it took over 3000 samples from the bottom of the sea in the strait, and made over 7000 soundings, and also sunk a shaft at Sangatte and started a heading. The English company did not do so much, for it failed to raise the money it required and its powers expired in 1880. Moreover, it was not the only company in the field, and its programme was not universally accepted as the best possible. Some authorities, such as Sir Joseph Prestwich, doubted whether the tunnel should be attempted in the chalk because of the likelihood of fissures being encountered while others who thought the chalk suitable were dissatisfied with the actual plans and formed a rival "Anglo-French Submarine Railway Company." In 1882 another tunnel company made its appearance. In 1874 the South Eastern Railway Company had obtained powers to sink experimental shafts on its property between Dover and Folkestone, and in 1881 to acquire lands, including the beach and foreshore, in that area in connexion with a Channel tunnel. These powers resulted, in 1882, in the formation of the Submarine Continental Railway Company which in that year sought parliamentary sanction for a tunnel, starting from a point west of Dover, at Shakespeare's Cliff; and at the same time the resuscitated Channel Tunnel Company applied for powers to make one from Fanhole, instead of St Margaret's Bay as in its former scheme. The whole question of the tunnel was then widely discussed and considered by various committees, the last of which—a joint select committee of the Lords and Commons—in 1883 expressed the opinion by a majority that it was "inexpedient that parliamentary sanction should be given to a submarine communication between England and France." This decision for the time being disposed of the question of making a tunnel, and though Sir Edward Watkin, one of its most prominent advocates, brought bill after bill before parliament to authorize experimental works in connexion with it, all were rejected. In 1882 the government interfered with the operations then in progress, and they were ultimately discontinued. They included a driftway 7 ft. in diameter which was driven for a distance of about 2300 yds. eastwards under the sea at an inclination of 1 in 72 from the bottom of a shaft sunk to a depth of 164 ft. in the chalk marl at Shakespeare's Cliff.

About this time the Channel Bridge and Railway Company took in hand the design of a bridge, the preliminary plans for which were exhibited in the Paris Exhibition of 1889. The terminal points were Folkestone and Cap Grisnez, and for the sake of facilitating the laying of the pier foundations it was proposed to take the bridge over the Varne and Colbart shoals. The main girders were to be nearly 59 yds. above the sea-level, the railway itself being more than 20 ft. higher still, and the spans were to vary in length between 540 and 108 yds. As the result of a survey of the sea bottom made in 1890, a modification in the line of the bridge was adopted, and it was taken direct from Cap Blancnez to the South Foreland. It was found that in this way an excellent bottom would be obtained for the foundations, and the length of the bridge would be 3 m. less, the number of piers, by employing spans of 434 and 542 yds. alternately, being reduced to 72. The cost of this structure was estimated at (28,320,000, exclusive of interest on capital during the period of construction, which was put at seven years. The same company also worked out plans for a moving chariot or platform, capable of holding a railway train and supported by long legs on a submerged causeway or track constructed of steel or