1862 – Proposal for Channel Tunnel


A proposal for a tunnel under the English Channel by an Engineer named Chambers in a periodical, The London Journal. “The important and interesting discussion of the feasibility of connecting the railways of England and Continental Europe is again occupying public attention. The question of a Channel Railway which would effect this object is one which involves many considerations of vital importance to us all. Can the natural barrier which the ocean has placed between England and the Continent be removed without obstructing the Channel, and without endangering our national safety in the event of a war, especially a war with France?

It has long been a matter of doubt whether such a connexion was desirable, and whether its influence on trade and traffic, and on the communities interested in it, would be sufficiently beneficial to warrant the expenditure.

The doubts, however, of the expediency of a Channel Railway have already been resolved in its favour, and a competent authority has expressed the opinion, “that such a scheme, if carried out, would be remunerative to shareholders, and highly advantageous to the countries on both sides of the Channel.” As the same periodical gives it as the decision of the leading scientific, literary, and commercial authorities, that the scheme is really feasible, and that it will doubtless be accomplished some day, we will give, in Mr. Chambers’ own words, the plan which he proposes for carrying out this scheme, with the probable cost of the construction, and his estimate of the profit which would accrue from the working of the Channel Railway: –

It is sixty years since a scheme for a roadway under the English Channel was laid before Napoleon. After the introduction of railways, several plans were proposed to connect the roads of England and the Continent. The one that attracted most attention was the plan of a French engineer, in 1857. He proposed to form thirteen islands in the Channel, by carrying material out to sea, dig down through the said islands into terra firma, and tunnel east and west.
The consideration which this plan received in certain influential quarters, and from the scientific men, warrants the belief that any feasible scheme would receive more countenance now, as the removal of the French passport system, and the adoption of the new commercial treaty, will greatly increase the trade and travel between England and the Continent.

The plan I propose will give a double line of rails for two gauges, capable of carrying all ordinary trains at the usual speed on the best roads. The work could be completed in five years in a substantial manner, for £12,000,000, and the statistics of trade and travel between England and the Continent warrant the assumption that the revenue would equal ten per cent per annum on this amount. My scheme consists in submerging tubes of suitable demensions, and loading them down, and makes ample provision for ventilation, light, safety and comfort, while the shore embankments would form magnificent harbours of refuge on each side of the Channel. I will be happy to show plans, sections, elevations and detailed specifications and estimates to parties interested. The method of joining the tubes under water has been pronounced by competent engineers ingenious, simple and efficient.”