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BRIDGE PARTY

3rd November 1961
Page 59
Page 59, 3rd November 1961 — BRIDGE PARTY
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

-N-OT enough is being heard of the views of commercial-vehicle operators on the Channel link or construction that has again attracted public attention :cause of the Government's evident desire to take Britain to the Common Market. It is at least clear that opera

a.s want provision to be made in the construction for rad vehicles as well as for trains. This is an improvement the position a few years ago, when it seemed that some iad interests would settle for a plan for a rail tunnel that ft room for a road tunnel should circumstances warrant at some undetermined later date.

Opinion may have hardened, but the expression of it :mains lukewarm, as though operators, if they had their ay, would prefer there to be no link at all. Selfish con derations alone would produce from road users the reflex tion of demanding a road tunnel. Neither public opinion ar the Government are likely to take much notice of !presentations put forward. on such a level. If operators ish their claim to be taken seriously, they must produce .ore constructive arguments and generate some heat on teir own account.

In the meantime, the advocates of the road tunnel are 'akin substantial progress. At a remarkably successful

ress -conference recently, Mr. Leo d'Erlanger, chairman

f the Channel Tunnel Company, was able to announce le reiterated opinion of the Channel tunnel study group.

fter four years of further study; that the twin railway innel was the most economic, efficient and the only tactical solution for a cross-Channel link, and furtherlore the only solution which can attract the requisite mount of private capital."

Cynics who heard Mr. d'Erlanger describe the study roup as impartial might wonder on what basis he justifies le epithet. In his own company the British Transport ommission are prominent shareholders, and the French tilwaYs 'are the main shareholders in the corresponding ampany on the other side of the Channel. In both cases, aad operators seem very much in the minority. There is o suggestion that the persons who made the study deliber

tely. allowed themselves to. be influenced, but they may ave been pardonedfor beginning with the assumption iat the railways_must be looked after, first before any mught could be given to other forms of transport.

ERHA PS as a result of the company's propaganda, public pinion now sees many advantages and few disadvantages .the rail tunnel. It would be cheaper than a bridge: 105m. as opposed to £210m. according to Mr. d'Erlanger, !though other figures that have been given vary considerbly from these and his comparison was inexact in that . was between a rail tunnel and a road and rail bridge. 'he impressiorr left, even if not precisely stated, is that it rould cost more to use the bridge than the tunnel. The pposite may well be the case, but the fact is not likely to ilerest the man-in-the-street in the absence of reliable gures.

Generally speaking, the motorist is indifferent or might ctually .prefer the tunnel, in so far as it relieved him from le fatigue of driving. He might welcome getting on a rain with his car in Britain and being-carried at a fair peed deep into Europe, where he can begin his road 3urney without the consciousness of having already driven everal hundred miles. The commercial operator cannot

expect much support from the motorist, who wo Id probably point out that facilities are also available f r lorries to travel through the tunnel on railway wagons.

Here is the insidious argument that makes the prote ts of road operators seem merely selfish. They are ri ht to see the danger. Whatever link is made, if at all, t e volume of traffic it attracts will be enormous, and the pl n that at present finds most favour will mean that all t traffic will be to some extent under the control of t railways, who without the slightest doubt are already c sidering how to make the maximum use of their pow The new spurt of interest in the Road-railer may prow e an illustration. This particular type of vehicle may hay a limited application in Britain, although within those lim ts it should be found useful. When there is a tunnel t at lorries may use only by driving on and off a railway wag! n, the Road-railer will be able to pass through with ut transfer, so that what it may lose at each end of its journ y it will mostly save in the tunnel.

Hauliers would be justified in feeling thoroughly alarm d. The B.T.C. may genuinely mean to help and co-opera e, but their ultimate aim must be to get the traffic for the selves, and they are well placed to do so. They mi h well capture not only what is at present called " int rnational " road traffic—that is to say, goods that the Brit h operator himself undertakes to carry across the Chan el and deliver at the destination—but all the traffic that at present flows through a number of ports in the South.

Is

r.

THE detailed changes that the tunnel will make in e pattern of traffic are anybody's guess; but is is certain t at the new link, with the broad new motorways and enlar-d railway facilities leading to it, will provide a power ul magnet. for export traffic from all over Britain to a w e area of the Continent. If road vehicles are delayed beca se of the tunnel, traders will have more and more inducem ni to use rail for the entire journey.

It is hard to see how delays could be prevented. r. dTrianger reported at the Press conference a calculati. that all the road vehicles that crossed the Channel in 1' .0 by sea and air could be cleared through the tunnel in th e or four days. On the strength of this he claims that b.th the tunnel. and the bridge "have a capacity far in exc ss of any likely demand in this century." This takes o account of fluctuations in the demand for tramp rt throughout the year, especially for passenger transp rt. More important still, it shows a complete failure to gr sp the size of the transport revolution that a proper Chan el link would set in motion.

Motorists and traders would clamour to use the link, a d long queues of cars and lorries waiting their turn for he train through the tunnel would make the present cong stion at the docks seem no more than a mild hold-up. I o understand the complete inadequacy of the whole cone ption of a rail tunnel, it is only necessary to imagine w at would happen if the present flow of traffic between 1' highly highly industrialized countries, such as France d Germany, were reduced to a single link, and that ser ed entirely by trains.

In the national interest hauliers and traders sho ld protest. They might well begin by forming a bridge pa ty in opposition to the tunnel group that has so far ad everything its own way.

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People: Leo d'Erlanger

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