Sir: Christian Wolmar's analysis ('Is sail or rail the wiser route?', 6 October) of ferry and rail safety in relation to the 50km (31 mile) Channel tunnel highlights the contrast in attitude to safety between railways and other types of transport.
Dipl-Ing Franz Kilchenmann, director of Switzerland's Bern- Lotschberg-Simplon Railway, which is planning a 47km (29 mile) tunnel for trains and road- vehicle rail shuttles, pointed out recently that the question is not 'how much safety equipment can be installed?' but 'how much equipment is really essential, and what are the effects of having it?'
It is worth recalling why the world's longest rail tunnel was built. Plans to construct the 53.9km (33.5 mile) Seikan tunnel under the Tsugaru Straits between Hokkaido and Honshu in northern Japan existed in the 1930s, but the proposals gained considerable momentum after 1,430 people perished in September 1954 when the Toyamaru ferry and other ships sank in a typhoon. Soon after the tunnel was inaugurated in 1988, the Japanese railways opened up its two emergency stations as revenue-earning tourist attractions.
Editor, Railway Gazette
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