Shuttle holds key to tunnel's future: Christian Wolmar looks at the costly rolling stock built to carry vehicles under the Channel

THE TRAINS on which the financial future of the pounds 10bn Channel tunnel project rests are the most expensive and sophisticated rolling stock ever built, costing almost pounds 300m a coach because of the tunnel's safety requirements.

There will be space for five cars in each coach and, with 12 single-deck and 12 double-deck coaches, each train can carry 120 cars, 12 caravans and 12 coaches. Each wagon has 63km of electric cable and each train has more than 500 computers.

Bombardier, the Canadian- owned manufacturer, has now delivered all but 18 of the 254 trains. This is a year late after a series of disputes with Eurotunnel, the tunnel operator, but this has hardly mattered since the tunnel is a year behind schedule anyway.

This summer there will be only occasional services at cheap rates. The shuttle starts in earnest in October and will build up to four trains an hour.

Eurotunnel says it will take 35 minutes from the platform at Folkestone to Calais plus eight minutes each for loading and unloading, giving a total time from motorway to motorway of about an hour. This is the main selling point for the company that aims to capture half the cross-Channel market in a couple of years.

Eurotunnel has a big selling job to do. It has eschewed a price war with the ferry operators by announcing similar prices - up to pounds 310 return for car and passengers in peak season.

There will be no refreshments on sale so Eurotunnel must attract motorists away from the ferries' restaurants, duty free and views by offering a quick service not at the mercy of the weather.

The wagons were on show at the factory in Bruges, Belgium, yesterday. They are enormous: 5.6m high and long enough to take a normal train coach. Inside, there are electronic displays and passengers can leave their cars and use the lavatories.

The ventilation system will clear the air of exhaust fumes and heavy steel doors will separate the coaches. The central drainage channel has two fire extinguishing systems, foam and halon gas, and there are smoke detectors there and in the roof.

Any fears about safety seem totally unfounded, but convincing people to take what one engineer described as 'a tunnel in a tunnel', will be an uphill task even though Bombardier has created a technological masterpiece.

Travel transformed, page 16

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
The spider makes its break for freedom
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Customer Support Technician

£15000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Waterlooville based softwa...

Ashdown Group: C# Developer - (C#, VB.Net, SQL, Git, TDD)

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Developer (C#, VB & ASP.Net, SQL Server, TSQL) - Pe...

Recruitment Genius: Associate Sales Consultant

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Associate Sales Consultant i...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established and expanding ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot