For quite some time since the Industrial Revolution, sustainable transport has almost been synonymous with train form of transport. Several modifications have taken place on the first steam engine design to more energy and speed efficient models. With advancement in technology in this information and technology age, even more fascinating models are likely to be designed to keep up with the pace of lifestyle change. Critical limitations that hinder train transport systems will be addressed such as the geographical intricacies . The Transatlantic Tunnel proposal dares to defy the ocean waters and the huge distance from America to Europe by bringing these two world business centers closer via a train.
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Top speed underwater tunnel across the Atlantic Ocean could be nearer to reality than many people would have thought. Engineering designers initially estimated that by the turn of the 21st Century, trains moving at around 5000 miles per hour could make the journey from America to Europe in less than an hour. Even though this future engineering project seems interesting, several issues need to be taken into consideration like the design that will pass the test of time across the treacherous ocean to the huge funding demand. Regardless of the factors standing in the way of the project, it remains a brilliant engineering project of this age. On the other hand, resilience could be propelled by the invaluable benefits that the project is likely to present to the world such that the project sees the light of the century. According to the documentary video Extreme Engineering, the possibility of this unbelievable project is not out of reach of reality amid modern technology. Challenged by the success of the English Channel linking England with France, such ideas of completing the project cannot be unimaginable in this technological age. These are among the issues that this study explores, in an attempt to unravel this massive project.
1.2 The Main Text
1.2.1 Background Information.
Nowadays, improvement of transport takes on a commercial perspective. Business had to be facilitated across nations in an efficient manner before using finer railway networks. In a more advanced version of the same networking, railway transport will now be explored for possibilities of connecting continents that are hundreds of miles apart. Building on past experience of connecting countries separated by seas and oceans, it is increasingly becoming a debate topic in engineering scenes on how continents can be linked by train for efficient transport. Similar ideas were illustrated in art and plays to demonstrate the relevance of the creation of such work .
1.2.2 History and Theory.
Jules Verne is the first visionary to suggest the Transatlantic Tunnel idea in 1895. The initial design could probably have been prompted by Verne’s long and unpleasant sailing experiences . Since there are several art works that used a fictional model of the Transatlantic Tunnel, its actualization was not taken seriously until real engineering work was brought on board. Suggestions have been made on several areas where the train and the tunnel system would need to overcome the most pressing missing links.
Theories and ideas of a tunnel linking the said continents have been persistent and the best postulations were demonstrated in a film by the name Transatlantic Tunnel which was made in 1935 . In the movie, a problematic development of the project featured an illustration of the difficulties that the project faces at the current stage. Most of the early positions held on the same topic were based on a fictional tunnel that was operational, perhaps to illustrate the applicability of the project. An earlier version of the same proposal had been developed and captured in the year 1933, in the German movie Der Tunnel .
By 1945, trains that used the vacuum principle to achieve speeds of over 1000 meters per hour were already in place, thanks to pioneers of real engineering studies. One of the major engineering pioneers of such designs was Robert Goddad who devoted much of his energy to similar engineering research. Three decades later, engineering articles that widely advocated for adoption of the technology were circulating. Vacuum train attention changed in the 80’s after discovery of the Japanese Maglev research .
Transatlantic Tunnel theory bases its postulates on the past engineering works where transport lines have been suspended in water. According to the Discovery Channel, the English Channel links England to France in an almost similar way that popular transatlantic models envision . Current top speed train formats are designed on magnetism and vacuum principles to enhance efficiency in terms of speed and resistance. Such trains models came into existence in the year 2004 when Shanghai.
Famous progress towards the realization of the project was made through the contribution made by Frak Davidson, who carried out similar research on the applicability of such a project. Assisted by another prominent engineering designer by the name Earnst Frankel, Davidson had made some of the most promising contributions to the project. In his earlier engineering projects, Davidson had participated in the study operations of a fact-finding group of the possibility of setting up a tunnel underneath the English Channel; the English Channel Tunnel.
The school of thought that has been propagated for a possible Transatlantic Tunnel design mainly relies on the work of Davidson. He proposed a system that would apply a suspended tunnel that is about 300 feet into the ocean. Another postulate of his design is the anchorage in deep sea where tethering is used to connect the tunnel to the anchor. Besides, he had also postulated that a vacuum would be necessary in his design, to facilitate top speed for the train. Finally, he also envisioned a magnetic train system being introduced into the same system for stability and speed enhancement .
1.2.3 Design Approach
Vacuum trains have been used in many high speed models that have been able to achieve extraordinary efficiency. To achieve the fastest speed that suits the model of train inside the tube-like tunnel, evacuation of the air that is inside the tube is usually necessary. This leads to the creation of an air free column which is capable of achieving speed similar to that achieved by a falling object in air. Bearing in mind that the project traverses across the entire Atlantic Ocean, time would be a significant aspect for any useful and efficient transport system. The best solutions so far generated by the engineering fraternity have largely relied on the vacuum train model which delivers results for top speed .
Magnetic Levitation system of transportation that uses magnetic force to propel locomotives has also been added into the design. Also referred to as maglev trains, the trains so propelled using magnetic field rely on three important components namely; source of electric energy, metal coils and large magnets. There are several advantages that the Maglev system presents to the design, including speed and stability. In this model, trains are lifted from ground level and are functioned on the principle of electromagnetism. According to Sirohiwala, Tandon and Vysetty, two main principles of engineering are exploited by the system, namely; Electromagnetic Suspension which relies on attraction forces as well as Electrodynamic Suspension which uses repulsion forces .
A combination of the vacuum and magnetic levitation systems have also been explored and found out to give better results. The benefits of a magnetic system coupled to the vacuum system will deliver not only top speed but also stability in the tunnel transport. According to the research conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, non contact bearings that magnetic levitation trains apply facilitate the realization of very high speeds and in conditions such as those present in vacuum train designs . Also, utilization of both systems in a high speed train system facilitates the elimination of frictional force which generally causes wear and tear. This implies that a hybrid system of the two systems could offer more benefits in cost reduction than most other systems.
Currently, the design that could be applied for the project heavily borrows from the engineers who postulated a similar design called Channel Tunnel that could run under the English Channel . Suspension design is preferred by engineers, where surface turbulence and the underground uncertainties are handled. Joining of pontoons will be carried out at a distance of about 50 meters below the water surface. To hold the huge pontoons in place, heavy sea anchors will be dipped to the floor of the sea and tethers used to connect the two. By so doing, several challenges will be overcome, including deep sea pressure, surface collision with ships as well as heavy waves. This distance is safe also for possible rescue operation, in case there is an emergency in the tunnel.
A cylindrical design has been adopted by the design since cylinders have inherent strength against wave forces, by reducing reactive resistance. The heavy pontoons that house the train are postulated to have a thick casing that is cylindrical in shape. A special vessel will transport the pontoons to the sea and facilitate their submersion as well as connection to the extended tunnel using special fastening screws and adjoining. Tethering will then be done onto an immersed anchor that sits deep into the sea floor. A continued extension of the tube will facilitate the completion of the tunnel from America to Europe.
1.2.4 Alternative Designs
Besides the suspension design that is currently advocated for by many engineers, there were two other designs that were postulated for the same. The first postulated tunnel type was in the form of a seabed drilling process that characterized traditional tunnel construction. On an account of the involved difficulties, this proposal was later rejected. These difficulties included the huge depths of the Atlantic Ocean at some points as well as the presence of submarine mountains. In addition, major earthquake prone regions posed a threat to the successful traversing of the tunnel.
In earlier versions of the tunnel design, a different approach was envisioned by constructing the transatlantic tunnel on the surface and eventually submerging it into the bottom of the ocean. This design was likewise rejected on intricacies that revolve around hydrodynamics in a huge water body such as the Atlantic Ocean. Pressure of the huge water column possessed by the Atlantic Ocean was identified as a threat to the form of structure to be submerged. It is alleged that the materials proposed for use by the tunnel cannot withstand the huge pressure exerted at the bottom of the sea. Besides, human beings cannot perform the construction functions at the bottom of the sea due to the high pressure. Any rescue operation in case of an emergency would almost certainly be in futility since the destructive nature of the pressure could be hazardous even to the rescue teams.
1.2.5 The Project
Several issues are involved in the design of an appropriate system that is able to overcome the challenges expected in the Atlantic Ocean. By making some of the most difficult decisions regarding the safety risks and costs incurred, engineers are determined to deliver a suitable Transatlantic Tunnel. The most disturbing questions that the engineers have had to solve regarding the project touch on the route, source of money, resistance, risks as well as the benefits. This section of the report discusses some of these underlying intricacies that designers have been compelled to solve.
Several routes were considered for various reasons, but one route is particularly preferred for the same. In order to ensure that the tunnel traverses the huge distance form America to Europe in less than hour, several factors are considered to arrive at the preferred route. Cost and safety are among the most important considerations made by designers. Whereas a straight and direct route could be shorter and economical for the project, safety considerations could prop up due to the earthquake activity along the straight route. The risks involved in the project must be closely quantified to ensure that the massive investment made does not get compromised deep into the actualization .
According to Sirohiwala, Tandon and Vysetty, the most applicable route that the project will consider is the route that avoids some challenging geographical conditions in the Atlantic Ocean. Following well researched calculations of distance and appropriate route, engineers have been able to find out the route that passes through Iceland and some parts in south Greenland from London then reach New York from the North Eastern side to be suitable . Despite extra costs being incurred for the drilling of the land sections in the connecting regions in the north, this route design has been able to overcome adverse results likely to be encountered in the deep ocean regions with earthquake activity. Besides, extreme weather conditions found in the northern hemisphere around Iceland and Greenland pose a challenge to the continuity of the project in the regions.
However threatening this proposed route appears in terms of extreme temperatures to the north as well as drilling necessity, the corresponding challenges of the alternative route are also considered. In view of the challenges encountered by avoiding this route, earthquakes are much more of a risk when taken in comparison. Unexpected destruction to the system poses as a more serious and potent threat to the project than the former mentioned risks. In addition to destruction, deep ocean pressure factors also cause a huge setback to the implementation of the project.
When considered in comparison, drilling and harsh weather factors encountered in the preferred route are less potent costs than what would be needed to counter the high pressure in deep sea. It is projected that the pressure exerted by the water column at deep sea could cause serious trouble to the integrity of the system. The cost likely to be incurred for such materials that can withstand the huge pressure as well as carry out the construction works that deep is very high. Maintenance could consequently be expected to carry a very huge cost element and risk when compared to the drilling procedure.
184.108.40.206 Air Resistance
Train transport faces some resistance from the air, just like several other forms of transport. In top speed models, a streamlined front end has been adopted in design to overcome the resistance. The introduction of the vacuum considerably reduces the drag. The design of the tunnel must also be responsive to avoid natural drag designs. Aerodynamic drag is particularly common inside a tunnel than it is outside a tunnel. Aerodynamic drag is experienced accompanied by pressure waves that travel as fast as sound and gets altered as the train gets introduced into the tunnel, changes its velocity as well as when cross-sectional aspects of the tunnel get changed too. Fluctuations in pressure penetrate the train where aural discomfort is experienced by the passengers.
Generally, confinement of the environment around the train causes changes in the aerodynamic system of the tunnel. At the thin end of the tunnel, the amount of pressure changes is determined by how long the tunnel and the train are as well as by the entry time taken before a second train enters the tunnel. To determine the amplitudes of the aerodynamic pressure variations involved, speed, nose geometry as well as blockage ratio are used. Bearing in mind that the Transatlantic Tunnel is a very long Tunnel, it is predictable that a maglev system will contribute very large amounts of pressure variations and possible discomfort.
Aerodynamic drag is also characterized by the directly proportional relationship it has with power consumption. Air resistance is usually reduced by about eight times with a reduction of velocity by half. This means that the power consumption varies with proportion to speed’s cube. In view of the other factors involved in resistance, size and shape of the head with regard to the degree of streamlined nature also determine power consumed. It is therefore a common design across train models proposed for the Transatlantic Tunnel having a streamlined shape.
There is a general challenge posed by aerodynamics of a top speed train that uses a tunnel. The flow of the air at the exit of the tunnel is usually at a very high velocity that is about ten times more than the ordinary requirement of a smooth ride .
220.127.116.11 Investment (Funding Parties)
Apparently, the issue of funding and the most important partners has not been at a critical and determinative stage. Project enhancement proposals have only been circulating without a mention of how the funds could be secured: However, by the look of the benefits that the two main continents and the entire world stand to gain in case of a successful implementation, funding should be forthcoming. Perhaps what is needed is a strongly convincing organized lobby platform to ensure that stakeholders are brought on board.
States incidental to the project are however expected to play a key role in the overall funding requirements of the project. This implies that the US, Canada and Britain have a more direct funding role to make for the project than any other state. Direct benefits expected from the use of the tunnel are likely to compel these states to make the investment in anticipation of the same. However, their willingness and therefore the prospects of the realization of the project will depend on the level of their satisfaction that the engineering work done delivers. It is expected that the investment opportunity that the project avails could attract attention of a regional funding due to the creation of the trading blocks that have characterized continents such as the EU. The EU is largely an economic block that taps into unexplored opportunities on behalf of the member states and such a lucrative project could have direct funding from the block. However, just as individual states would demand the ascertaining of certain project reliability score, the EU could also work on assessments to ensure sustainability of the project. The ball goes back to the engineering field to carry out as much research and development studies as would constitute an irresistible offer for funding during lobbying for funds.
Alternatively, private sector investment and funding for the project cannot be left out. With evidence of some major investments being solely undertaken by the private sector, the possibility of contributions into this project cannot be ruled out. Commercial activities that the private sector will anticipate to achieve upon completion of the project will spur interest which is consequently likely to avail funding. Development partners of the involved states are likewise in the list of likely funding source based on commercial benefits that they would obtain from the project.
18.104.22.168 Challenges and Dangers
Ocean currents are one of the challenges that the tunnel would have to be prepared to withstand. Across the Atlantic Ocean, very strong current waves exist for instance the Gulf Stream. Structural oscillation design will need to be very strong such that the tethering system adopted will take care of the swaying motion of the storm. Relating the suspended tunnel to suspension bridges, motion occasioned by wind and water has been found out to be catastrophic. Major suspension bridges such as the Tacoma Narrows Bridge have been brought down by strong winds and a similar phenomenon can be expected from strong ocean currents for a suspension tunnel.
Suspending the tunnel in water will necessitate the use of deep sea anchors that will ensure firm tethering. Bearing in mind the depth of the ocean occasionally goes to nearly five miles, the possibility of achieving firm tethering into the sea appears evasive or a cumbersome design. Besides the technical requirements that the project will need to facilitate anchorage to such depths, the materials’ quantity and quality that can facilitate this project are almost unimaginable. In view of the distance and possible design consumption, it is estimated that around one billion metric tons of steel will be needed. In addition, the ocean floor where the tunnel will traverse is almost certain to encounter some region of earthquake vulnerability. In view of the hazardous effects of earthquakes to engineering projects, the inevitable encounter with such factors make the project one of those marred with uncertainty and challenging circumstances.
In addition to exposure to earthquake challenges, the geography of the ocean floor through which the tunnel will traverse presents daunting route choice technicalities. Despite there being several options of possible routes that the tunnel can pass, each of the options has its unique set of challenges such as the most economical distance. About 3,000 miles of distance across the ocean stand in the way of the project’s success. The long distance from North America to Europe will require consideration of the most applicable route and what point of initiation or termination to design the project. Besides the issue of the route, the project demands a massive construction material that requires the world supply. For instance, from the beginning to the end of the project, available world steel production capacity will be highly beleaguered. Whether the needed materials demand will be estimated and stored in such reserves as would be capable of sustaining the project remains a strategic operation challenge.
The continuity of the project will face several challenges among which weather will appear to impact heavily. In the recent weather patterns, severe winters have been experienced in Europe and North America and across the Atlantic Ocean. Temperatures way below the freezing point will certainly affect the rate of project progress during winters. Together with the distance complexities, other factors such time will therefore act as an impediment to the project’s desire to be expeditious. Estimates of the duration of time needed to complete this project stand at a staggering one century or more.
High speed trains designated for the tunnel transport require very high levels of stability. To achieve very high stability as required could pose as a threat since very little breaches could severely damage the system. Most faults in an engineering project depend on the level of stability flaws. Besides the anchor and tether system that the tunnel design adopts, speed inside the tunnel needs to be enhanced for better stability. One of the proposed ways to achieve top speed for the train is through the creation of a vacuum. To achieve a vacuum over a relatively shorter distance has proven to be an uphill task for engineers; how to achieve this over a large distance such as from America to Europe is even unimaginable. How to achieve top speed for stability purposes appears to pose the most potent challenge.
Tunnel’s Maglev systems are environment friendly and highly save on energy due to electrical energy consumption .The system appears to be shielded from the controversial oil energy sources of energy. Usage of nuclear energy will not only save money but spaces utilized for fuel carriage.
Ordinary railway and road transport particularly experience heavy wear and tear costs which are not encountered in maglev systems. Basing maintenance costs on wear and tear occasioned by contact, it will be less expensive to maintain a system where no contact is experienced.
Among the most striking features of the proposed train model, speed is by far the best. These train models can achieve speeds of up to 500 kilometers per hour. Business will be enhanced between Europe and America to supplement to the sea and air transport systems.
While compared to several other modes of transport, tunnel train transport tackles unfavorable weather in a dramatic way. Inside the tunnel, weather based hindrances to operations of the train are not expected. Poor weather conditions such as visibility and snow cannot affect the flow of the train at its top speed.
e) Cost of Operation
Since train transport is generally cheaper when compared to some other modes of transportation, costs of operation are considerably expected to reduce from America to Europe. This is so despite the capital initialization of the project which might be higher than any other project done before.
Trains have a higher load capacity than many other modes of transport, including air transport. Achieving a supersonic train model would by far outdo major huge aircraft models such as the Concorde, which is not operational today due to several factors .
Proposals might be very appealing to the eye but the amount of time required for the completion of the project act as a major hindrance. It is estimated that over at least a century lies between the proposal and the actual implementation of the project.
To construct and transport materials from the mainland to the construction site may prove to be an onerous task for the engineers. Distance for movement of labor and materials will act in hindrance to the project’s implementation.
Despite the relatively lower cost of production, there is a high certainty that the project will be the highest in history of engineering works. It is estimated that labor, materials and other logistic costs will need more than one financier for the project. According to a similar project study carried out by the Norwegians, cost was the only hindrance .
d) Construction Conditions
Construction across the large Atlantic Ocean will have to face serious weather challenges including freezing temperatures as well as strong winds and currents. The most appropriate route will have to be chosen to overcome this challenge, which may appear to be expensive. Deep sea construction of the tunnel will be faced with high pressure that demands for specialized machinery instead of human beings.
As mentioned before, geographic issues will be encountered by the construction of the tunnel, demanding drilling to supplement to the suspended model. Drilling will be necessitated by over-land sections encountered in the cheapest route choice. This will not only affect the pace of construction but also change the design of the train.
f) Emergency and Rescue
In case of adverse hitches in the operation of the top speed train, it will be impossible to perform a rescue operation. Other transport systems are easily accessible for rescue operations than in sea transport, worst scenario being a submerged system such as a suspension tunnel.
g) Risk Uncertainty
As it is currently with major civil engineering works, measurement of risk involves several issues, with some having collapsed more than once. Collapsing of such a massive construction could not be ruled out completely, bearing in mind the existence of several hindrances to the system.
h) Passenger Comfort
Sudden acceleration and deceleration leaves an unpleasant feeling in the body of the passengers. Since the Transatlantic Tunnel is designed on a very high speed platform, sudden acceleration changes will be expected to be an unpleasant experience for the customers, unless more time is allowed to facilitate adaptation of the body.
1.2.6 Project Feasibility
Checking is likely to feature the feasibility aspects of the project, technology, economics, law, operation and schedule. Whereas relevant technology is likely to be within reach for such a project, clearly outlined requirements of the project are yet to be prepared. Maybe by the time the project reaches critical stages of implementation, such details will be availed. In the current information and technology age, anything is virtually possible since all the relevant information is within reach .
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In terms of economics, it can be said that the possibility of the project reaching a successful end is quite remote. Legal frameworks are not a major hindrance since similar projects have taken place but at a lower magnitude. Operational feasibility is likewise uncertain, having several loopholes in the coordination of the research as well as funding intricacies involved. With regard to schedule, the project is unfeasible as it is, since time expected for completion is over a century. Within the span of such duration of time, several options would have propped up making the project obliterated and unnecessary. Efficiency of the project is also uncertain due to the challenges expected ahead. Whether there is a need for such a project is a question that could be argued favorably or not. However, as it currently stands, it is needless to embark on the project.
Transatlantic Tunnel will remain to be one of the greatest civil engineering ideas of the human history. Despite the challenges that the project presents to engineering designers, it can be done, but at a very high cost. The speed of the train could challenge investors to quicken implementation since the benefits of the project will proportionately flow speedily. No matter how interesting the project seems, time factor and cost act as the major hindrances to its implementation.
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