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The geotechnics of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link

It is fortuitous that the challenge to create a 21st century high-speed railway in the crowded south-east corner of England has coincided with geotechnical and geo-environmental engineering maturing as an engineering science. Major construction projects provide the environment in which technological innovation can be explored and implemented, to the benefit of the whole industry.

The Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) is a major project on a scale and of a complexity which at least equals and, in many respects, exceeds any carried out in the heyday of railway or motorway construction.

As with the early railways, CTRL is facilitated by private finance in the form of London and Continental Railways - and its Union Railways subsidiaries - in partnership with government and enabled by government sponsorship of the 1996 CTRL Act.

At a very early stage, it was appreciated that the geology would control much of the engineering when threading the alignment between the existing transport corridors linking London and the Channel Tunnel, there being little opportunity to benefit from advantageous ground conditions when selecting the route.

Early geological and investigatory work by Union Railways has been extended into full-scale engineering and carried forward into construction by Rail Link Engineering and the many contractors and suppliers working on the project, both on and underg the round.

I welcome the publication of this Ground Engineering supplement.

It celebrates the near-completion of groundworks for Section 1 and the start of the tunnelling and piled slab construction that characterises much of Section 2 as the link approaches its London terminus at the soon-to-be remodelled St Pancras international station.

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