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Channel Tunnel champion Colin Kirkland dies


COLIN KIRKLAND, former Eurotunnel technical director and driving force behind the mammoth Channel Tunnel project, has died of cancer aged 68.

As one of the UK's foremost authorities on tunnelling, Kirkland's career spanned over half a century. With consultant Halcrow he worked on some of the biggest and most complex tunnelling jobs of the time, including the Post Office tunnels in London and London Underground's Victoria and Jubilee Lines.

But it was his work as technical director on the Channel Tunnel project that really set the seal on his career. As technical right hand man to Eurotunnel boss Alastair Morton, Kirkland drove the project through Parliament, helped secure the complex finance deals and ensured the project was delivered. For this he was rewarded with an OBE in 1992.

Kirland's depth of knowledge about tunnelling and his ability to explain complex issues in simple terms also meant that he quickly became the Channel Tunnel's official technical voice in the media.

'My fficial title was an odd one; it was an umbrella name for a raft of responsibilities which came to include public affairs and media relations, ' he told NCE in 1994.

'Early on I was heavily involved in creating an organisation for Eurotunnel, negotiating the contract with TML, helping with the hybrid bill select committee.

But my prime role was to make and then keep the financiers happy about the Channel Tunnel's technical prospects, ' he added.

Kirkland was born in 1936 and joined Halcrow in 1952 aged 16. He studied part time at Westminster technical college while working under tunnelling guru Sir Alan Muir Wood.

His Halcrow career spanned nearly 45 years and was interrupted only twice - first for national service with the Royal Engineers in 1954, then when he joined contractor A Waddington & Sons to act as sub-agent during construction of the Victoria Line at Stockwell.

Kirkland was a fellow of the ICE and the Royal Academy of Engineers and was chairman of the British Tunnelling Society from 1985 to 1987. He was president of the International Tunnelling Association from 1987 to 1992.

His expertise prompted the ICE to put him in charge of a seminal investigation into the use of sprayed concrete tunnel linings following the Heathrow Express Tunnel collapse in 1994.

But it is for his work on the Channel Tunnel - which started in 1965 - that he will always be remembered.

'I have always tried to be absolutely honest, it's the only way I can live with myself, he told NCE after the Channel Tunnel was completed.

'I said to the bankers, 'when the tunnelling begins everything that can go wrong will go wrong', ' he told NCE.

'I gave it to them straight.

And boy, was I glad I did.

Events proved me right. I was able to say: 'Gentlemen - what did I say-'.'

. Kirkland's wife Sheila and his family will host a memorial service in Guildford Cathedral on 14 March at 11am.

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