Rails et Histoire

An Introduction

Twenty years under the Channel… and beyond A research and events programme to celebrate 20th Anniversary of the railway channel tunnel by the Railway Historical Society, with the support of KPMG and Mr Christian Cambier


What is this about ?


- This railway link still remains the greatest investment ever made in Europe (15 billion €, Channel Tunnel Link included for 6 billion €).

- A 2-century old dream became true, rich with symbols, images, hopes, and made possible by a strong political will and original project structuring.

- The most dramatic change ever occurred in European geography since prehistoric times was the creation of a new land border between the UK and the Continent.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, a programme of scientific events was launched on Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at the British Embassy in France in the presence of H.E. Sir Peter Ricketts.

The topic for the scientific programme is the Paris-London-Brussels Cross-Channel rail system in the broadest sense of the term. The programme will span a total of three years, from 2014 to 2016, including two years devoted to research. The event will culminate at the time of the 30th anniversary of the signature of the Canterbury Treaty by Margaret Thatcher and Francois Mitterrand in February 1986, which signalled the start of the project.

The programme has three targets :

(1) to ascertain the knowledge available about the Channel Tunnel rail link : experience, expert analyses, written sources, living memory
(2) to gauge achievements at regional, national and European level and explain any disparities by comparison with the project’s original assumptions
(3) to draw conclusions for future reference, in particular with regard with funding and operating arrangements for major transport systems, for large infrastructures, and PPP / public private partnership.

The programme governance is trusted to an international scientific board. The approach will be resolutely multidisciplinary with the aim of prompting exchanges at all levels between the scientific community and players in the field. It will also set out to foster international exchanges of views, with a focus on the contrasting perspectives of France and the UK.

The target public for the programme will be a mixture of transport, town & country planning, finance and economic sector protagonists and scientists, analysts and academics. Communications on the project will place emphasis on subjects likely to strike a chord with the general public : mobility, technology, town & country planning, economics, Europe, regions.

On a parallel, there will be an oral history campaign, with input from those interviewed being immediately submitted to scientific analysis. The programme should also be an opportunity to ensure the conservation of archival collections belonging to both companies and individuals, by making their owners aware of the historical value and importance of the documents in their possession and encouraging them to donate them to archival centres.

Working and communications languages : English, French

The topics studied : each topic will be examined at a suitably styled event to be staged in 2015 and 2016 and coordinated by a Franco-British team. Appeals for communications will be issued at least six months before each of these events.

5 topics have been proposed by the Scientific Board :

1) Transport geography and economics : how have passenger and freight flows changed since 1994 ? Nature, geographical pattern and growth of traffic promoted by the advent of the Tunnel and accompanying infrastructure ; newly generated traffic or old traffic rerouted ; impact on shippers, users and operators ; ex-ante and ex-post cost-benefit analyses from their perspective ; competition between modes : ferries, airlines ; new port geography ; stations and urban development ; traffic flows (routes and directions).

2) Funding and governance of major infrastructure projects : what lessons can be drawn from experience with Eurotunnel, Eurostar, High Speed 1 ? Regulation : contracts, supervision (inter-governmental and safety commissions, railway regulation) ; decision to favour private sector funding for the Tunnel, a mixture of public and private for the accompanying infrastructure ; role of the stock, bond and credit markets ; trends in forecasting methods ; conditions for the financial restructuring of Eurotunnel. Corporate development strategies ; Eurotunnel : from concessionaire to multi-portfolio transport group ; crisis management.

3) Regional development : what role has this innovative transport system played in developments in the regions served ? How has it shaped geographical areas and economic exchanges and what is the spread of the economic and social benefits ? Has it made territories more attractive, sharpened their competitive edge, caused growth and diversions ? What has been the focus of investment and direct foreign investment ? Have results lived up to expectations and territorial development theory ? What external effects can be identified ? Who are the winners and the losers ? Euroregion Kent-NPC ; North-South divide ; impact on London, Paris, Brussels, the Nord-Pas de Calais, Flanders and South-East England ; growth, employment, tourism.

4) Migration and frontiers : Has the creation of a land border for the UK and the arrival of a larger number of services and high-speed trains worked through between London, Brussels and Paris been a decisive factor in new cross-border relocations ? In migratory flows at European and worldwide level ? This topic touches as much on the problem of illegal immigrants (e.g. the Sangatte refugees) as on the movements of citizens from Schengen and EU States (e.g. London’s French population). It also touches on the notion of what constitutes a “border”, a concept changing rapidly under the combined pressure of information and communications technologies and internationalisation of exchanges. The policies of customs and immigration controls on the train and at Cross-Channel departure terminals and their interaction with the transport system will also be examined on this occasion.

5) International relations, geopolitics and European integration : at the beginning, the project was hallmarked by its political dimension, in particular the Canterbury Treaty. To what extent does the political, diplomatic and strategic dimension of a major infrastructure project hamper its development ? Conversely, have the growing and changing traffic flows and the symbolic nature of the Channel Tunnel affected the foreign policies of adjacent States, relations between France and the UK, attitudes towards Europe, cooperation over defence issues ? What impact has there been on the attitudes of inhabitants in the different countries ? Is it possible to talk of binational organisation cultures or of greater similarities in organisational cultures ?

A final summit open to all participants will be held to table the results of work and proceedings will be published.

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