Channel Tunnel And Frejus Road And Hsuehshan Tunnels Construction Essay


When a tunnel is built between two countries there are a lot of benefits for both countries. There will be economical gains as it increases tourism and business for both countries. Both countries will also benefit from a stronger political relationship. Furthermore the social barriers will be broken as people from both countries will be more accustomed to each other's cultures. The success of such a project will also be beneficial on a wider scale as it encourages the rest of the continent to work on similar projects.

The main issues addressed in this report are: a) engineering, b) economical, social, political, and sustainability issues. The three tunnels that will be compared are the Channel tunnel, Frejus Road tunnel and Hsuehshan tunnel. The Channel tunnel and the Frejus Road Tunnel both run through two countries, therefore social and political impacts will be compared. The Channel Tunnel and the Hsuehshan Tunnel are built under water; the engineering difficulties to construct the tunnels will be compared. Also the sustainability of all three tunnels will be compared.

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Channel Tunnel

Construction for the Channel tunnel started in France when tunnelling began in 1988. However the idea was first proposed by Albert Mathieu-Favier in 1802. This was the first of many attempts to construct the tunnel between Britain and France. The attraction of these proposals was the fact that Britain would have a stronger connection with the rest of Europe. These proposals were then dismissed due to the treats it posed to the nation. However in 1955 Great Britain was decided that there was no threat to build the tunnel.

Engineering aspects of Channel tunnel

The Channel tunnel is constructed in chalk marl stratum. The advantages of constructing the tunnel in chalk stratum are the fact that the materials are easily accessible and the chalk marl material is impermeable. The Channel tunnel consists of two tunnels which are both 7.6m diameter. A third tunnel which is used for servicing has 4.8m diameter (A.R.BIGGART et al, 1992). Having two tunnels allows enables operations to go smoothly and also allows maintenance to go on in one tunnel. In addition in the case of emergency the tunnel which is not affected can be used as an emergency exit.

Also in case of serious emergency conditions in both tunnels the service tunnel can be used as an emergency exit. The service tunnel will also be used to help with maintenance in both tunnels. The service tunnel was also used to carry out ground conditions during the construction of the Channel tunnel (G.S Crighton et al 1992).

The Channel tunnel has five pumping stations which are used to collect and pump seepage water whilst also being used as a barrier to leakage water (A.R. BIGGART et al, 1992). In order to maintain the tunnel the pumping stations have to be run symmetrically around the tunnel this will allow works to continue even if one side of the pump is faulty.

During the construction of the Channel tunnel the biggest problem was the face stability. Despite the efforts to stabilise the tunnel face it became unstable. Therefore to overcome these problem reductions were made. However the problem still persisted which led them to use a two meter rake which was used to form a buttress face that slopes which eventually solved the problem (I.C.D Fugeman).

Political issues of the Channel Tunnel

Since the Channel tunnel was connecting Britain and France both the British and French governments were involved in this project. France initially proposed the idea of constructing a tunnel and Britain were more sceptical about the idea of constructing a tunnel. However the tunnel would have a great impact on the economy of both countries and because the project was mutually beneficial to both countries the agreement was made.

The construction of the tunnel took place at a time when Margret Thatcher was in office. During this time a number of public sector industries were privatised. Therefore both the British and French Governments decided to privatise the management and construction of the tunnel. This meant that both governments would not be spending taxpayer's money to fund the project. Therefore if any problems occurred during construction there would be no strain or financial disputes.

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The construction and management of the tunnel was carried out by Eurotunnel. Due to the decision to privatise the project Eurotunnel was entirely responsible for financing the project. Therefore both countries had no further involvement in any problems which would have occurred during construction.

Frejus Road Tunnel

The Frejus road tunnel is 12.87km long and it connects France and Italy through the Alps it is a two lane road tunnel. The diameter of the tunnel is 7.4m on the French side and the width inside the tunnel is 10m. The purpose of the tunnel was to cut the travelling time between France and Italy through the Alps, the Frejus road tunnel is one of few tunnels which provide a route through the Alps.

The construction of the tunnel took six years construction started in 1974 and it was completed in 1980. The tunnel was constructed by using drill and blast method. The tunnel is used by the general public and it's also used to transport goods from Italy to France and vice versa. Both France and Italy will gain from the Frejus road tunnel as it offers a more cost effective way to transport goods.

During the construction of the Frejus road tunnel the main problem was slope stabilisation. When constructing a tunnel in location with complex environment slope stabilisation is one of the major obstacles in the project. In order to tie the pile retaining wall a DIYWIDAG multistrand anchor was used. The main complication to this process was the specification of the bond lengths. It wasn't possible to determine the bond which would be suitable for the depth of the rock layers before the drilling took place. Therefore the time for the fabrication and installation was cut short to three days. To solve this particular problem all the anchors were prefabricated in a location near the site.

The tunnel was constructed by a French company SFTRF the company also manages the tunnel along with an Italian company SITAF. The tunnel is owned by SFTRF and operations and maintenance are carried out by SITAF. The political relations between France and Italy were already strong since it's not the first time a tunnel was constructed between both countries.

Comparison between Channel tunnel and Frejus Road tunnel

One of the main similarities between the two tunnels is the economical benefits that both projects bring. The Channel tunnel has benefited both France and Britain since it provides a much cheaper means of transporting goods into both countries. The Frejus road tunnel has benefited both France and Italy in similar fashion. Even though it isn't the only tunnel that connects Italy and France the demand for a short journey through the Alps is high.

Another similarity between the websites is the fact that it strengthened the political relations of the countries. The Channel tunnel was the first tunnel to connect Britain and France which was seen as a major landmark in improving political relations. The Frejus road tunnel also shows the continued strength in political relations between France and Italy.

One the other hand a major difference between the tunnels is the geological differences in the tunnels are built. The channel tunnel is built in chalk marl, whereas the Frejus road tunnel is built in metamorphic rocks. The approach to constructing the tunnels was also different as the Channel tunnel was built under the English Channel and the Frejus road tunnel was built in the Alps.

Hsuehshan tunnel

The Hsuehshan tunnel a road tunnel in Taiwan that connects Taipei and Ilan. The tunnel is approximately 12.9km long two main tunnels run through it with an additional pilot tunnel (Politecnico di Torino, 2004). Once the tunnel was opened in 2006 it became the fifth longest tunnel in world and the longest tunnel in Asia.

The main purpose for constructing this tunnel was to reduce the journey time between the capital Taipei and Ilan which is in East Taiwan. The journey time was reduced from about two and a half hours to just half hour. This benefits Taiwan economically in many different ways from savings in transportation cost to increase in tourism to Taiwan.

Engineering aspects of Hsuehshan tunnel

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The construction process for the Hsuehshan tunnel started in 1991 and it took 15 years for completion. There were a number of major accidents in the construction process which resulted in severe delays to the overall completion (K.T.Chang et al, 2008).

The construction for the Hsuehshan tunnel was contracted to RSEA. For the first time in the history of Taiwan a TBM (Tunnel Boring Machine) was used to construct the tunnel (Wen-Lon, Taiwan Area National Expressway Engineering Bureau). Similar to the Frejus road tunnel a major obstacle for the construction of the tunnel was the difficulty with the geology. Although the geology was exactly the same as the Frejus road tunnel the problems were similar. The tunnel cuts through the Hsuehshan mountain range with the deepest overburden as much as 720m (Wen-Lon, Taiwan Area National Expressway Engineering Bureau). Rock formation is severely fractured and they contain huge reserves of ground water. To overcome the difficulties with the geology a combination of both TBM and D&B (Drill and Blast) methods were used.

The pilot tunnel which is located in the Hsuehshan tunnel is an important part of the tunnel. It is very useful in terms of operational and maintenance work as well as providing an emergency exit (Wen-Lon, Taiwan Area National Expressway Engineering Bureau). During the construction of the Hsuehshan tunnel it was used to transport material and it's still used for maintenance works. The pilot tunnel is also used for emergency purposes.

The social and economical effects of the tunnels

At the time when the Channel tunnel was being constructed in 1986 the unemployment rate was approximately 11% in Kent, at the same time the unemployment rate was similar at 13% in Nord-pas de Calais (Watson, Kathy, 1987). The economy in Kent relied mainly on agriculture and the construction of the tunnel would boost the employment rate. On the other hand the construction of the tunnel was more significant to the economy of Nord-pas de Calais industrial based, at that time it was experiencing decline (Biggart, et al, 1989).

During the construction of the tunnel the local communities of both Kent and Nord-pas de Calais were not severely affected. This was due to the fact that both cities were not urbanised at the time which meant that they did not have to be relocated during the construction process (Clement, Rebecca, 2006). However the expected rise in employment did not reach the levels initially expected as only half of the workers employed were from Kent (Patterson, B et al 1992).

The total cost of the construction for the Channel tunnel was expected to be in the region of £4Bn. However the overall cost at the end of the construction eventually rose to £9.5Bn resulting in the project to be over budget by £4.5Bn (Anguera Recard, 2006). Some of the reasons for the project going over budget were as a result of machine failures which caused delays. However the main reasons for the project costing more than double the price initially predicted was the change in legislation on the environmental and safety (Anguera, Recard, 2006).

In Taiwan the Hsuehshan tunnel had a great impact on both the social and economical development of Taiwan. In order to increase the development of East Taiwan it was essential that the travel time was cut down ((Wen-Lon, Taiwan Area National Expressway Engineering Bureau). Therefore the Hsuehshan tunnel was an integral part of the success of Taiwan and it became a government policy (Wen-Lon, Taiwan Area National Expressway Engineering Bureau).

Sustainability and environmental aspects

When building large infrastructures such as the Hsuehshan tunnel in the present day and age planning and design work has to be carried out thoroughly. The serviceability of tunnels such as the Hsuehshan tunnel is considered to last over centuries. Therefore some of the design work is carried decades before the completion of the project. In the case of the Hsuehshan tunnel, methods previously used for excavations in Taiwan had to be overlooked in favour of the TBM the environmental implications were considered as part of the selection process (Wen-Lon, Taiwan Area National Expressway Engineering Bureau). Although the environment implications were considered generally it isn't a priority in Taiwan. In a 2005 environmental sustainability table Taiwan were ranked 145th out of 146 countries (Environmental sustainability report, 2005).

On the other hand sustainability and environmental aspects were more significant to both France and Italy. France is ranked 36th in the table and Italy are ranked 69th (Environmental sustainability report, 2005). This indicates that during the construction of the Frejus road tunnel both countries would have tougher legislations than Taiwan. The importance of the environment and sustainability is also influenced by the EU since both France and Italy are members. The fact that five European countries are in the top ten in this table compared to no Asian country shows that there is a difference in behaviour.

The UK is ranked 40th on the sustainability table which indicates that the approach to sustainability issues is similar to France. The Channel tunnel was also subject to tougher environmental requirements compared to the Hsuehshan tunnel. Due to changes in legislation on the environment the total cost increased considerably (Anguera, Recard, 2006). There were a number of measures taken the overall pollution caused when constructing the Channel tunnel. One way of reducing the pollution levels was to restrict the transportation times of materials to the site (Clement, Rebecca, 2006).

Even though the Taiwan ranked remarkably low on the sustainability table in 2005 improvements were made in 2006. The Environment performance index ranks Taiwan in 24th position (Environmental Performance Index, 2006). Although efforts are being made by Taiwan to improve on the environmental measures the table also shows that France, the UK and Italy are all ranked in higher positions (Environmental Performance Index, 2006). Looking at the table assumptions can be made that future constructions of a similar tunnel would be more expensive in Taiwan if they want to improve the environmental policies.

Fire and safety measures

It is absolutely vital to have the correct safety infrastructure to deal with an emergency in a tunnel. The most important aspect of the emergency measures in a tunnel will be dealing with fire. When a fire does occur in a tunnel it is very important to have proper procedures to deal with the fire. The Hsuehshan tunnel in Taiwan is classified as an AA tunnel due to the length of the tunnel, which means that it's required to with deal with all sorts of disasters (K.T. Chang et al, 2008). The tunnel therefore has a pilot tunnel which is used as an emergency exit in the case of a fire. During the construction of the tunnel 25 workers lost their lives as a result of accidents.

The Frejus road tunnel and the Channel tunnel have both experienced fire disasters in the past. The Frejus road tunnel had experienced the disaster in 2005when a truck caught fire, there were two casualties as a result. Furthermore the tunnel had to remain closed after the disaster occurred which resulted in major disruptions for transportation from Turin to Lyon. Since the fire there have been major improvements in the fire protection of the tunnel. The 'Safe T' project which has been funded by the EU has outlined a number of standards which have to be followed. Since 2005 there have been major works in road tunnels all across Europe to improve on the safety procedures such as emergency lighting and escape routes (F.Clement, 2010).

The fire in the Channel tunnel occurred in 1996 with the actual cause of the fire is unknown. There were no deaths reported as a result of the fire however the damage caused by the fire was enormous nevertheless. The financial loss incurred was as a result of the fire damaging the tunnel directly and indirectly the closure of the tunnel. The Channel tunnel has a number of measures to deal with fire inside the tunnel one method is to detect and another method is to supply fire fighting water to the tunnel (Kirkland, Halcrow Consulting Engineers). Since the Channel tunnel connects France and the UK it is also regulated under European legislation. The 'Safe T' would therefore also influence the fire protection measures being used in the Channel tunnel.

Since fire in tunnels can have a major affect on tunnels its key that the right procedures are in place. All the tunnels have experienced problems with health and safety in different ways. Preventing disasters could prove to be impossible but when the right measures are in place it could make a significant difference. A number of measures such as having a pilot tunnel for evacuation will allow people to escape. Other measures such as regular risk assessments will ensure that there are no major faults which could worsen the damage caused.


After studying the three tunnels it becomes evident that they have similarities in terms of the usage of the tunnel, construction and problems with safety. However there are also differences in terms of location, geology and social benefits. Each tunnel illustrates the significance a tunnel has on the communities directly affected and the larger population who will also benefit from it.

There are a number of differences in the three tunnels such as the policies on the environment. Both the Frejus road tunnel and the Channel tunnel have similar approaches to sustainability and environmental issues. This is evident in the ranking France, Italy and the UK received from both the sustainability performance table and the environmental performance table. The Hsuehshan tunnel on the other hand was constructed with far less thought on sustainability.

The Hsuehshan tunnel and the Frejus road tunnel had similar problems with the geology of both locations. The Channel tunnel on the other hand was easier in that respect with a softer Chalk marl geology. The Frejus tunnel was tricky in terms of construction because it's located in the Alps. Whereas the Hsuehshan tunnel was difficult to construct due to the number of faults that occurred in the rocks. Although the tunnels were constructed successfully all three of the tunnels suffered severe delays.

There are also a number of similarities in the three tunnels as they all have a positive economical effect on the people in the areas. The Frejus road tunnel and the Hsuehshan tunnel are both used as road tunnels for the general public. However since both tunnel cut the travelling time it also benefits businesses as they will cut the transportation costs. The Frejus road tunnel cuts the transportation costs from Italy to France and vice versa, while the Hsuehshan tunnel does the same for Taipei and East Taiwan.

Besides the economical benefits the tunnels also provide social benefits and stronger political relations. The Channel tunnel has improved the political relations between the UK and France considering the concerns over nation threat it might bring. Although the Frejus road tunnel is not the only tunnel that connects France and Italy it does have social benefits for Turin and Lyon in particular. The Hsuehshan tunnel is not connected to another country however the tunnel would make an improvement in social relations between the people in Taipei and East Taiwan.

All the tunnels also faced disaster which in the cases of the Frejus road tunnel and the Hsuehshan tunnel has resulted in death. In both the Frejus road tunnel and the Channel tunnel the disaster was caused by fire. However in the Hsuehshan tunnel the problems occurred during the construction and as a result 25 workers died. Due to the disasters delays and closures resulted in a financial loss.