Eurotunnel Exhibition Centre, 24th May, 1989.
This, our first coach outing since the one to the Thames 3arrier, got off to a good start with all 45 participants and the coach arriving at the appointed pick-ups at the appointed times. We followed the coast route with a welcome stop for coffee at Beachy Head. Our schedule had not allowed for road works in the Pevensey area, so, after a 25 mile diversion on what must have been one of the hottest days of the year, we arrived half an hour late for our lunch at the Burlington Hotel, Folkestone. Here we were joined by Peter Marten, last year’s Cooch Lecturer, who stayed with us for our tour of the Centre and manfully (and I believe very successfully) tackled our many and varied questions.
The scale of the project was well demonstrated by the full- size mock-ups of tunnel sections, the boring head and the proposed car carriers. The exhibition seemed to me an excellent place for brushing up one’s technical French, all captions, videos etc. being in both languages, but I felt that the whole was levelled at a generation much younger than ours. I agree with Jo Grimond (Telegraph 17th June) “It has some of the best toys on offer. You stand in a simulated section of the tunnel, watching trains scuttling about on tables. You can climb a tower and look on the devastation being wrought on a landscape which, though real, almost seems like a toy.” Actually we had the best view of the approach tunnel entrance from the coach as we set off for home, with H.B. revealing hitherto unknown talent as courier.
The contrast between the present and the first attempts at cross-channel tunnelling was excellently presented: in fact the whole exhibition had a very “professional” feel (even though one model train was derailed before our very eyes!). In the shop there were a number of informative teaching programmes for schools, but I looked in vain for a brochure which would summarise the information on display.
The refreshment area was designed to give a continental flavour: as we sipped a welcome “cuppa”, at least one of us wondered if the cafe at the other end of the tunnel offered “Ploughmans” or “Fish’n chips.”!
When a rather tired party eventually left the coach, it was generally agreed that this could be added to our list of successful visits. Trips to the subject of the Cooch Lecture seem to be becoming something of a habit, but this year’s will present problems – I fear even Harry Brown will draw the line at hairy helicopter trips!