Sarkozy gives go-ahead to £3.9bn project

Western Europe’s biggest engineering project since the Channel Tunnel was given the green light on Tuesday when President Nicholas Sarkozy announced France’s scheme to link Paris to Cambrai in northern France by a 66-mile long, 54m-wide canal.

While the Seine-Nord Europe canal is being aimed at commercial traffic, to carry loads currently borne by some half a million lorries a year on northern France’s road network, it will also be open to leisure craft. Paris will be readily accessed from the UK with only a short sea crossing, and there will be a connection from the Rhine-Scheldt waterways network of the low countries and Germany.

The announcement of the much-delayed scheme is provoking controversy due to both its £3.9bn cost and its proximity to WW1 battlefield cemeteries. However, a spokesman for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission said that ‘written assurances’ had been given that none would be threatened.

The canal, which President Sarkozy claims ‘will put Paris at the heart of Europe’, should begin opening in 2016.