Tunnel vision is ready for take-off
THE ambitious engineering plan for a £610 million railway tunnel under Edinburgh Airport's main runway was unveiled yesterday.
The construction of the 1.5km twin-bored tunnel, described as "unique in Scottish engineering", will involve a team of internationally recognised tunnelling experts, who will assess the hazards involved.
The Edinburgh Airport Rail Link (EARL) will include a new station at the airport and the underground link to the main rail network.
The tunnel project has attracted controversy after the airport's owner, BAA, raised concerns, including fears of possible flooding and damage to the runway, while transport campaign groups supported other options.
But Malcolm Peat, who is leading the team responsible for the tunnel's design, said similar projects had been carried out in the likes of Barcelona, Germany and Hong Kong, and he wanted to allay any public fears in Scotland.
"The success of this project is based on management of risk, looking at the hazards we could encounter as the tunnel ducks down beneath the airport," he said. "We have carried out risk management studies and we are in absolutely no doubt this is feasible."
Mr Peat, visiting professor of engineering at Strathclyde University, who has worked on the Copenhagen Metro, and the St Clair River tunnel in Canada, said the main dangers were ground conditions, settlement and flooding.
His team have invested 1.8 million in detailed surveys that involved taking soil samples from the entire stretch of the 12km route to safeguard against future problems.
Work on the concrete-reinforced tunnel, which will be built in segments and bolted together, is expected to begin in 2009. A 1 million computer-guided boring machine, which can also cut through boulders, has been ordered for the task.
There have been assurances that people using the airport will not be inconvenienced during construction.
The bill enabling the project to proceed is still going through the Scottish Parliament, with objectors' concerns due to be heard next week.
A spokesman for BAA Edinburgh said it had withdrawn its technical objection to EARL, "though clearly there is still a lot of detailed work to be undertaken".
Fergus Ewing, the SNP's transport spokesman, said: "Engineers will, of course, say the tunnel can be constructed. The real question is how much more it will cost when it has already cost 609 million. We backed a surface option link, which would have saved hundreds of millions of pounds. - money far better spent on a Forth crossing and Waverley upgrade."
Colin Howden, of the campaign group TRANSform Scotland, said: "We haven't changed our position. We think there should be a rail link to the airport, but don't think the scheme the Scottish Executive went for was best value and will result in added journey times."
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Monday 20 May 2013
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