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?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor