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Meet the man who helped build the world’s longest tunnel
“It was an act of courage” to build a tunnel under the thick rock of the Alps, says Franco Cuaz – a consultant who worked for an Italian firm involved in the construction of the Mont Blanc tunnel. The tunnel – the longest in the world at the time at around 11 km – provided a link between Chamonix in France and Courmayeur in Italy and saved motorists from an arduous journey across tiny mountain roads which were only accessible a few months a year.
Digging began in the late 1950s and conditions for the miners were harsh. Workers had to contend with dust, smoke, water and bad visibility and sadly, 12 lives were lost during the construction. But one positive memory which stands out for Franco is the day the French and Italian miners met in the middle – a momentous occasion for all.
On the day the tunnel officially opened in 1965, 3,500 vehicles passed through it and it continues to be used today.
Stuart Minchin, Director of Buildings, Matchtech comments:
“The Mont Blanc tunnel is a great example of engineering and the practical problems it can solve to enhance our everyday lives. Franco’s story shows how engineers push the boundaries on what has been achieved before and how they persevere through the inevitable challenges that arise in every project.”
“Engineers with tunnelling experience remain in demand today, particularly within the rail and water sectors, with notable projects including HS2, Crossrail and the Thames Tideway. Tunnelling is a niche skill set and as such tunnelling engineers have a host of opportunities available to apply their skills on a range of projects across a number of sectors. Like Franco, they can be a part of history, helping to improve transport links for future generations.”
You can hear Franco’s full story in a four minute video on the BBC website.
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