Plans for a £7bn tunnel connecting Europe to Africa have been revived.
The first tunnel linking Europe and Africa, mooted since the late 1800s, could still be built despite serious funding and construction barriers according to a Spanish government committee.
First put forward in 1869, a 38km-long tunnel crossing would link Spain and Morocco through the Strait of Gibraltar from Tarifa to Tangier and could cost up to €8bn (£6.9bn).
Previous suggestions have hit the buffers over unsuitable tunnelling terrain and funding problems. As well as contributions from the Spanish and Moroccan governments, the project would need money from the European Union and possibly private investors.
But the Spanish Society of Studies for Fixed Communication through the Strait of Gibraltar SA (SECEGSA) president Rafael García-Monge Fernández told an engineering conference in Gibraltar that the tunnel is still on the cards, provided eight specialist tunnel boring machines (TBM) can be built.
One prototype TBM would cost £28M to build.
According to Spanish newspaper Diario de Cadiz, Fernandez said a recent study by ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) and Herrenknecht, one of the world’s largest tunnelling firms, proved SECEGSA’s 38km tunnel is feasible.
Fernandez added for the project to be a success, all institutions involved “have to be willing to do it”.
Of the 38km, the tunnel would be underwater for 27km at a maximum depth of 475m and a slope of 3%. Serious barriers remain as a 4km stretch of the underwater section contains clay soils which would be difficult to tunnel through.
According to SECEGSA, high speed trains running through the tunnel would slash journey times for freight traffic between two major cities, Madrid and Marrakesh. However, high speed trains in the European Union are restricted to running on a gradient of no more than 1.2%.
An excavated tunnel between Spain and Morocco has been suggested since 1869. Many versions of the scheme have been put forward over the last 150 years, with the most recent developed from 1996 and based on the Channel Tunnel.
In the latest plan, solar energy produced in Africa could also be transported to Europe through the tunnel.
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