Plans for tunnel between Spain and Morocco
15 December 2003
MADRID – Spain and Morocco have agreed to start tests on a possible tunnel between the two countries, it was reported Monday.
Machines could be digging under the Strait of Gibraltar in five years.
The Spanish transport ministry said EUR27 million would be invested over the next three years in a geological survey between Punta Paloma, on the south-western coast of Spain near Tarifa, and the Moroccan coast, near Tangier.
A decision whether to start digging a tunnel will not be made until 2008.
The tunnel would be 24 miles long, of which 17 miles would lie under the fast-moving waters of the strait.
Technical studies for three potential routes between the two points suggest that the tunnel could descend to between 100 and 300 metres under the sea.
The seabed in this part of the Strait of Gibraltar, where the Mediterranean and the Atlantic meet, lies at about 300 metres at its deepest point.
The route was chosen “because it is the one with the least depth of tunnelling needed”, the ministry said.
Experts said a tunnel of fewer than 12 miles would be possible further to the east, but it would mean boring 900 metres below sea level.
The seabed deepened considerably at the shortest point between the two continents, the ministry said.
The proposed tunnel would copy the Channel Tunnel in having two rail tunnels with a service tunnel linking them.
The service tunnel would be built first, and work on it could begin in 2008, the transport ministry said.
“The final route and the depth of the tunnel will depend on the geological studies, which require a series of complex tests,” it said.
Relations between Spain and Morocco have begun to thaw after a series of rows, including the armed confrontation last summer after Moroccan forces landed on the tiny Spanish islet of Perejil.
The two countries have had disputes about immigration, farming and the sovereignty of two Spanish enclaves on African soil, Ceuta and Melilla.
The tunnel would be shorter than the Channel Tunnel, which stretches for 31 miles. But once completed it could, however, have some of the same problems.
The Strait is one of the most popular points for illegal immigrants – like the English Tunnel.
Security would almost certainly be an issue as Morocco has suffered a series of suicide bombings and 41 people were killed in Casablanca in May.
The two countries first began talking about a tunnel project in the late 1980s, and both set up state bodies to help prepare the project.
The Spanish transport ministry said it had already bored an experimental tunnel 560 metres long.
Copyright EFE with Expatica
Subject: Spanish news