Friday, July 11, 2008

The London to New York Tunnel

Did you know that there is a tunnel between London and New York? Furthermore, that this tunnel enables residents of the aforementioned cities to peer into each other’s worlds? I few weeks ago I visited the London end, which surfaces just near Tower Bridge. Despite the appeal of such an attraction, I had the weather on my side in ensuring that the crowds would not be too great enjoying this spectacle – yes, it had poured with rain the whole day, and indeed made no effort to change outlook during my visit.

After paying a pound for the privilege (as they point out, the NY end does not charge – this is because HMRC won’t allow VAT rebates unless they charge entry – though arguably surely they could have charged a nominal fee of a penny, say, rather than a steep pound), though you do have the ticket lovingly written out for you by a robotic chap wearing a top hat. The ticket itself is really quite nice, with old fashioned “roll up, roll up” prose – I reproduce some of the text here:

This Ticket entitles the Bearer to visit the ENCLOSURE where he may
see across continents
by means of the MAGNIFICENT
and unusually ATTRACTIVE
invented by
Alexander Stanhope St George
and realised by his descendent
in collaboration with

Overleaf, one finds the “Guide to Conduct”:

At times of excessive Busyness, Visitors will
be limited to five minutes in the enclosure.
Please do not cause a Rumpus if asked to leave.
Persons visiting the Telectroscope must be
orderly in appearance. Obscene gestures will NOT
be tolerated! No money is to be given to the

So, in I go, and wait my turn behind an American couple with baby, who are greeting their State-side friends, the wife of whom apparently has a phobia of flying and so has never visited the UK. French television happen to be on hand to record the tunnel and some reactions. Those better prepared have brought along boards or paper with pens to write messages to show to the other end. I make do with waving to my American cousins, all of whom are having difficulty seeing their end with the bright sunshine – certainly they’re all dressed for summer – flipflops, shorts etc being the norm of clothing being exhibited to us as we stood under our umbrellas in the gloom!

The idea of this comes from Alexander Stanhope St George, who conceived of a transatlantic tunnel, and whilst planning this trip, I did stumble across the VacTrain concept . Effectively when Japan was busy showing off their bullet trains to the world, the Americans decided that they couldn’t be left behind (until they worked out the bill), so they conceived of a network of long distance train tunnels between major American cities, built far underground in rock, with the tunnels a partial vacuum, enabling the trains to run at vastly increased speeds than have ever been witnessed before – 3 to 5,000 mp/h. Yes, you read that right. Five thousand miles per hour.

Some of the gadgetry which controls this NY-LON tunnel

An extension of this idea is a transatlantic tunnel, potentially anchored to the seabed, well below any oceanic turbulence, making London to New York a journey of less than an hour. What a marvellous idea. Real design studies of this have been carried out, including input from one of the key designers of the Channel Tunnel. Projects of this vision and forethought tend only to happen under Tory governments though, unlike the poisonous decay and lack of investment we’ve suffered under the current government – let’s get trans-atlantic trains in the manifesto! Think of the boost to tourism and business both to the link cities themselves, but also to the US and whole of Europe – with high-speed European services coming into St. Pancras from the Chunnel, we could be talking about London being the world’s surface transport hub. No more carbon worries or Heathrow expansion nuisance!

Anyway, back to reality. At least the sun’s out today. That would be why the Bakerloo line is suddenly roasting hot, and my pre-pay Oyster credit dwindles ever quicker for short uncomfortable journeys across our marvellous capital. Sigh!

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