Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Channel Tunnel Rail Link
The Channel Tunnel Rail Link (or CTRL) is a project to construct a 108 km high-speed rail line from London to the British end of the Channel Tunnel. When it is completed in 2007, it will be possible to reach Paris from St Pancras in 2 h 15 min and Brussels in 2 h.
A high-speed rail track has been in operation on the French section of the Eurostar rail link since the Channel Tunnel's opening in 1994, carrying trains at 300 km/h. A similar high-speed line from the French border to Brussels opened in 1997. In Britain, trains have had to share existing standard track with local traffic, limiting average speeds to 100 km/h. In addition, the generally poor state of Britain's rail infrastructure has caused frequent and unpredictable delays, reducing the appeal of the Eurostar service.
Section 1 of the CTRL, a 74km section of high-speed track from the Channel Tunnel to Fawkham Junction in north Kent, was opened in September 2003. This cut the London-Paris journey time by around 20 minutes, to 2 h 35 min. The section includes a 1.2 km bridge over the River Medway and 3.2 km long, 12 m diameter tunnel through the North Downs. In safety testing on the section prior to opening, a new UK rail speed record of 334.7km/h was set. Trains continue to use existing suburban lines to enter London, and terminate at Waterloo International Terminal, at Waterloo in Central London.
Section 2 of the project, due to open in 2007, is a 34km stretch of track from Ebbsfleet (near Northfleet) to London St Pancras. It includes two new stations (at Ebbsfleet and London Stratford), a 3 km tunnel under the Thames near Dartford, and a 19km twin tunnel running into central London. When the second phase of the CTRL is opened, all Eurostar trains will run to St Pancras International instead of Waterloo International Terminal, as they currently do.
- The CTRL project is one of Britain's largest civil engineering projects, encompassing new bridges and tunnels as well as many kilometres of track.
- The track itself is essentially a product of the engineering expertise of the French railway company SNCF, operator of existing TGV high-speed lines in France.
- The twin tunnel being bored under London is being driven from Stratford (westwards towards St Pancras and eastwards towards Dagenham) and from Dagenham (westwards to connect with the tunnel from Stratford). The tunnel boring machines are 120 m long and weigh 1,100 tonnes. The depth of the tunnel varies from 24 to 50 m.
- At St Pancras station a new extension will double the length and number of platforms to accommodate the Eurostar trains.
After local protests, early plans were modified to put much more of the track in tunnel where it nears St Pancras. For example, the Link will now pass underneath, rather than along with, the North London Line, before running into St Pancras still in tunnel, rather than the previously-expected elevated section. The CTRL building works are causing considerable disruption, but bringing in their wake much redevelopment of the run-down area of post-industrial and ex-railway land close to King's Cross and St Pancras.
The project is due to be completed in 2007.
- CTRL company site with photos, progress reports etc.
- Trade Article
- Guardian Unlimited Interactive Guide to the CTRL (requires Flash)
- Route map with vertical profiles
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