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Channel Tunnel between England and France Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: May 25th, 2019

The channel tunnel project is a network comprising majorly of railway link and partly a road network between England and France. The channel tunnel project started in early nineteen eighties where boring of the tunnel initially started at Shakespeare Cliff in Britain and Sangatte in France after the geological investigations evidenced the presence of chalk strata that could have supported tunneling. Critically the project had some hindrance at its initial stages.

First political influence or interference was so high at the beginning that it contributed to misunderstanding and laxity between the two governments. After the French and the British governments had agreed on common security, environmental and safety concerns in nineteen eighty-four, bids or proposals for the channel tunnel project got underway the year that followed. In the initial stages, there were a number of proposals; first a proposal by Europont for a suspended bridge (Channel Tunnel Group Limited 1985, p.30).

Secondly, Eurotunnel proposed a railway shuttle service with provisions for railway and it contained three channels, having two for the trains, and one for maintenance purposes, and thirdly Transmanche Express had an idea of having four bored tunnels that allowed both road traffic and railway. Lastly, Euroroute had a solution of building a bridge-tunnel-bridge. The main purpose of this multi-million channel tunnel project was to create a connecting link between France and England.

This project however, is one of the largest among many others sponsored privately. The two governments’ cooperation made it possible to secure support or funding from various banks. Other groups actively involved were the key contractors and some regulatory agencies.

The unpredictable requirements or conditions and changes by the various interested parties made it inevitable for the engineers taking the contract to avoid the use of new technologies. Eurotunnel won the bid in the year nineteen eighty-six after it had presented its three-tunnel proposal successfully. On the other hand, Transmanche form France also got the award of the tender (Redfern 2004, p.15).

The two groups had to oversee the start and completion of the mega project. The mega project had several or a number of stages it underwent before its completion years later. To begin with, the analysis of the project takes us through the initial stages of the project, the commencement phase. During this period, the aim of the proposed channel tunnel project was to come up with a fixed transportation means between France and England.

The initial proposals by Eurotunnel had suggestions of building a double-rail channel of about fifty-two kilometers that translates to about thirty-one and a half miles. This had to accommodate special car-and- truck-train shuttle and the accommodation of through trains. The main reason as to why Eurotunnel won the bid was the excellent description and creativity that accompanied the construction and building of the channel tunnel project including its bid price of about six United States Dollars (Pretorius et al., 2008, p.56).

During the initial stages, there were so many shortcomings contributed by limited time for detailed design studies that could have brought up pending issues. Among the issues affected by the hastiness of the concerned parties is the lack of identifying a crucial air conditioning component part of the project.

The initial bid did not include the tunnel’s air conditioning, which had to impact on the final price bid by about two hundred United States dollars, an amount that would have needed a good and clear consideration plan before its initiation. The intergovernmental commission supervised the projects on behalf of the two governments.

Its key functions included among many others the safety authority, designing procedures, giving specifications and dealing with construction safety issues. The commission majorly contributed to the shortcomings by putting so much pressure on project scope, which led to their laxity in approving design drafts original not considered within the initial concession agreement (Donovan 2003, p.16).

This important fact unveiled gaps that left governments who left almost all details determination in the course of competition an idea likened to letting a rat free during a Christmas party by Colin Kirkland who was the technical director of the Eurotunnel. He asserted that this simple mistake would activate different unpredictable reactions by the people around. These reactions are mostly uncoordinated and can amount negative impacts if not taken into consideration in the right way with the perspective.

This pointed out the many mistakes and negligence by many governments that usually results to problems that would be if enough time and consideration that put in place at required instances stimulates keenness. The initial proposals took into consideration the aspect of financing the project where the Channel Tunnel Treaty allowed complete financing from only private sources. This meant that no government loan guarantees and aids were required for this project from its commencement to its completion.

Years later, this agreement extended its prohibition powers on the government where the government was not allowed to put any price regulations on any situation. This translated to ease of cost estimation during tight governmental economic pressures. To assure the financing of the project, the financing got pursued through loan capital markets and equity capital as a sure way of getting complete and required financial needs for the whole project until completion time (Dinsmore & Cabanis-Brewin 2010, p.45).

Shareholders who contributed to equity shares from the two countries pushed the financial capability of the project a level high even though initially the idea was one sided as majority equity shareholders were from France before attracting others from England. The other source of financing was through the raising of loans through a consortium of more than two hundred banks around the world.

This was an effort to assure refinancing at times when negative variances in cost estimates and time inevitably emerged. The two governments took another critical turn when they gave a concession agreement that allowed Eurotunnel to operate the tunnel for a period not exceeding fifty-five years. This allowed any shortcomings cushioning by Eurotunnel as the shortcomings could influence the flow of the planned cash (Gibb 1994, p.20).

After the financial aspects, there is the analytical presentation about the physical layout of the real channel tunnel project. To begin with, the analysis goes through the transportation system. Here the transportation system comprising of fixed railway and road networks for mixed traffic of both vehicles and the trains. The distance separating the trains and the high speed national trains or special shuttles seems to be so small, about two point meters (Halpin 2010, p.92).

Going further in details, the information available from Pierre-Jean’s Channel Tunnel Project report, the shuttles provide services to road users by allowing rail transportation of road vehicles including coaches, cars and Lorries connecting the two countries road to road, this provides an alternative means other than the initial rail and the already existing ones like the airplanes and ship ferries.

The three long tunnels cover a distance of about fifty two kilometers where about ten kilometers of the tunnel is under land in England while in France, about three kilometers of the tunnel is under land (Gibb 1994, p.25).

The other key thing arising for this analysis is how the project got organized until its realization. Eurotunnel comprises of a bi-national company consisting mainly of Channel Tunnel Group of United Kingdom and France Manche S.A. of France. From reports, it is indicated that the banks involved had a fifty percent ownership while the other fifty percent was contributed by the ten companies that later comprised of the now Eurotunnel.

Within the Eurotunnel Company, the constituent companies had some definite roles to play. Looking at Transmanche Link, TML comprising of five French companies, was responsible for; design, construction among others it had to commission the project. In these initial stages, there were several problems anticipated.

The process of securing funds from more than two hundred bank that were located in different countries around the world was a tiring and technical step that needed more than just acquiring of the funds. This comes because of the multiple ways that were required to give back refunds to the banks at the end (Loosemore 2000, p.24).

The problem that seemed to emerge was the issue of combing the two French and British Engineering methods together with the expertise associated with it to bring out a better incorporation of the two important technical contributions to boost greater outcomes without biasness at any level. Realizing this needed more considerations and evaluations from expatriate teams. The other key issue that emerged during this commencement or inception period was the idea of brining together the executives who represented the ten companies.

This idea included also the training of more than thirteen thousand employees. The successfully trained personnel had to work at various stages of the channel tunnel project. After three years of training most of the trainees formed a single channel tunnel project, team that aimed at completing the project. There existed complications in terms of hiring more than forty contractors to work on the same project (UK Parliament and House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, 2006, p.16).

The real complication came in as to how different technological capabilities of the various contractors had to match together in an effort to realize a common goal, completing the project in time and meeting the requirement desires of the key personalities involved. Another key challenge at this initial stage was the negative schedule variances caused by the intergovernmental commission as it sought the safety requirement changes.

This whole issue brought complications especially with how to redefine activities including the sequencing and the duration required for the determining the baseline of the whole project and activities involved in it. Another challenging factor is the idea of decision-making process, good decisions made concerning a mega project like this results into both smooth running of the project development and the and better results (UK Parliament and House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, 2006, p.14)

Good decision-making process results into a better contractual process that leads to minimal damages of shortcomings. In order to realize a good decision-making process, time and resources involved get considered carefully and keenly to ascertain any shortage or mishap that would result into defective project running. With these factors in mind and taking a critical look at the decision making process of the channel tunnel project, it is clear that there were many challenges in making the critical decisions made by concerned parties involved.

First, decision-making process at channel tunnel project had many fragmentations that eventually led to the involved parties disagreeing at most levels. With this happening, it was difficult for the Channel Tunnel Project management team to take clear and precise means of analyzing and addressing critical issues concerning the Channel Tunnel Project from a centralized stand off or position.

The problem of decision-making spilled into areas that were so much sensitive and raised more concern as to how the project had to run and get completion with this kind of inconveniences. One of the key areas affected was the place of operation where little was mentioned and achieved concerning a formal office that would have made the operation of the project and general working more convenient and lead to realistic achievements at the end of the stipulated time (Channel Tunnel Group Limited 1985, p.45).

According to historical backgrounds, construction industry has had the capabilities of using the advanced management principles and tools of service. This has helped companies in the industry to successfully give outstanding performance and increase expectation from the clients to carry out their activities. Channel Tunnel project had a unique operation lacking this crucial element at the initial stages of its operation.

To this end, the office necessitates the availability of accountability reports on funding and the shareholders to get in touch of every other aspect of the operation that the Channel Tunnel project undertook. Lacking a formal office, Channel Tunnel project contractors risked executives blocking the efficiency of communication between the various sections that were most important to the completion of the project successfully without many impediments and shortcomings. A formal office is the focal point of the two effective kinds of communication.

The two kinds are the vertical and the horizontal kind of communication that ensures smooth running of any project especially a complex one like this of Channel Tunnel project. This could have been some of the reasons as to why one of the governments involved hesitated so much on the way leading postponing of the initial agreement time that would helped in completing the project earlier on (Dinsmore & Cabanis-Brewin 2010, p.20).

The other thing to focus on while analyzing the Channel Tunnel project is the critical stage that saw the project begin and develop to mature stages. At this stage, various activities got underway. The beginning of most activities in this stage was soon after the awarding of the contract to both France Manche and the Channel Tunnel Group. The contract got awarded in a different way where the winning bidder had to build and own the project.

The ownership, strategy had to last for about half a century where the supervising governments had to take over. Before the actual construction began, several things got into consideration. The first thing was the surveying of the land and the marine environment to ascertain the possibility of the project commencing. The initial survey started back in eighteen thirties by Thome de Gamond and several other surveys followed years later.

Basing on previous findings, the investigations that followed in the eighties reinforced on them and brought out significant reports that were used later to make the project more possible. After the surveys, the construction was set to begin officially after the soil or the complete geological studies were done properly (Gibb 1994, p.33).

The boring of the tunnels started early in nineteen eighty eight on both sides of the projects, that is, in the southern side it begun in France and in the northern side it began in England and the two tunnel boring had to meet at the middle after each side had completed boring the three tunnels successfully.

This activity commenced only after the engineering ideas and the technological information got put to a common platform that allowed the use of standardized means and measures ensuring total compatibility and uniformity all over the tunneling project.

According to analysis carried out each side of the tunnels the ended in the two countries had a different way of finishing as desired by the engineers of the respective sides. This was only limited to a point where the standard rail gauges had to match on both sides beyond the undersea tunnel (Channel Tunnel Group Limited 1985, p.28).

The final outlook and the designs used at the exit and entrances on both sides depended mostly on the needs and demands of engineers of the two countries and their general creativity in combination with the capabilities in terms of technological innovativeness and financial power not forgetting the environmental impacts on the surrounding lands.

The two terminals on both sides that connected the Eurotunnel to both rail and road underwent a construction design that ensured the safety of both operation and management, maintenance and the users. On the English side, the Folkestone terminal covered a total of about one hundred and thirty nine hectares of land and this included ways of accessing the terminal.

The terminal was about eight hundred meters wide and other side; the French constructed their terminal covering a very wide area of about six hundred and ninety hectares, as the site chosen did not suit either farming or construction of buildings (Institution of Civil Engineers (Institution of Civil Engineers UK 1993, p.25).

Due to the expansive area on the French side, there was construction of earthworks including the rolling stock maintenance on that side. The mechanical subsystems construction was for the purposes of safety and drainage provisions. It holds the fire fighting equipment, the drainage system and the cooling means that allows normal operations in the tunnels to go on well under almost normal environmental conditions.

The fire fighting equipment holds some means through which water get so close to any point where fire can occur. With this equipment provision, the easily accessible components required including the water itself control any fire fought by water. The ventilation system also consisted of a normal ventilation system that generally contributed to a large percentage of the air demands in the tunnel for normal operations and functioning in the tunnels (.Institution of Civil Engineers (Institution of Civil Engineers UK 1993, p.32)

The channel tunnel project was completed and opened one year later than its official opening time. During this opening time, the British Queen Elizabeth the second travelled through the tunnel to meet her French counterpart and the then President of France Francois Mitterrand. After meeting her counterpart midway, the two leaders opened the tunnel of the French side after which they held and opening ceremony in Calais in the year nineteen ninety-four.

Queen Elizabeth the second and the French president Francois Mitterrand travelled through the tunnel to the other side where they held a similar in Folkestone. After the completion and the grant opening, the tunnel has offered a number of services like; the Eurostar passenger trains, the Eurotunnel Shuttle and the through freight trains that helps in carrying goods and enabling vehicles to go through the tunnel.

Even though the traffic forecast that pressurized on the building of the tunnel was not consistent, the tunnel ha served its purpose to some significant point in time. The passenger traffic volumes keep fluctuating periodically and this presents a problem in projecting future outcomes in terms of turnovers.

For instance the traffic volume fluctuations between the year two thousand and three and the year twenty ten ranges from about fifteen million in two thousand and three and sixteen point nine in the year twenty ten. This statistical data shows that the reality in the operation of the tunnel is far behind the predictions carried out in the earlier years (Redfern 2004, p.31).

In conclusion, the channel tunnel had lot of issues during its initial stages that showed some laxities at some levels by concerned parties. This finding points out that for any significant project work management a lot of coordination and time sacrificing has to be in place to achieve better results in the near future.

The persistence by engineers to come up with a perfect project in the end despite the shortcomings brought about by scope changing, led to the good design and finish of the channel tunnel project at the end. This were contributed by the better management skills applied and great technical flexibility of all involved contractors and the willingness of the financers including the bankers who were ready to contribute to the smooth running of the project until its completion (Loosemore 2000, p.19).

List of References

Channel Tunnel Group Limited, 1985, Environmental Resources Limited, the channel tunnel project: environmental effects in the U.K., Channel Tunnel Group Ltd, London.

Dinsmore, C & Cabanis-Brewin, J 2010, The AMA handbook of project management, AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn, New York.

Donovan, S 2003, The channel tunnel, Twenty-First Century Books, Washington.

Gibb, R 1994, The channel tunnel: A geographical perspective, Wiley, London

Halpin, W 2010, Construction management, John Wiley and Sons, Chicago

Institution of Civil Engineers UK, 1993, The channel tunnel: terminals, Thomas Telford, London.

Loosemore, M 2000, Crisis management in construction projects, ASCE Publications, London.

Pretorius, et al, 2008, Project finance for construction & infrastructure: principles & case studies, John Wiley & Sons, Chicago.

Redfern, A 2004, Law and practice of international commercial arbitration, Sweet & Maxwell, New York.

UK Parliament and House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, 2006, Channel tunnel rail link, The Stationery Office, London.

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