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Tunnel vision

30 Nov 2000

ASIA: 'The construction is technically feasible, but the problem is money' said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, unveiling a US$80bn plan to end Japan's insularity with a 174 km tunnel between the island of Kyushu and South Korea. Japanese engineers built Korea's first railways, and Mori said the project is a cherished dream among their successors.

When Mori unveiled his vision for the world's longest undersea tunnel at a meeting of Asian and European leaders in Seoul, French President Jacques Chirac responded to the ambitious idea with a cry of 'bravo!'

North and South Korea are currently clearing a way through the planet's most heavily fortified frontier to reconnect a railway line divided, along with the country, for the past 50 years (RG 9.00 p511). The cross-frontier connection will link South Korean ports to the Trans-Siberian corridor, and then to Europe. The undersea tunnel would plug Japan into this emerging landbridge. A through Tokyo - London train would also feature the 54 km Honshu tunnel, currently the world's longest, and the 50 km Channel Tunnel, although some some changes of gauge would be required en route.