Unfair on Brunel.
Francis Cowell states that railway electrification would need to be stopped at Exeter due, as I understand him, to "Brunei's cheap coastal route" (Letters, PE April). I really cannot see why this route is 'unelectrifiable'--seems simple enough to me!
The risk of wash-outs remains, regardless of whether the line is electrified or not, while any diversion should be built with electrification in mind.
Cowell criticises Brunei for building the Royal Albert Bridge single track, but I suggest it is timely to remind members that "Engineers can do for a pound what any fool can do for ten!"
Moving on, it is unfair to credit Brunei with the challenge of building the Severn Tunnel. That was engineered by Sir John Hawkshaw and not started until 14 years after Brunei had died!
Whilst the builders did indeed break into a giant freshwater spring, far from continuously flooding, it is worth recording that thanks to continuous pumping the Severn Tunnel has never flooded since it opened. And again, with good clearances, electrifying the railway through it should be a simple piece of engineering.
However, if Cowell can suggest a way of boring his replacement parallel (double track?) tunnel and associated railway connections for less than the cost of continuously running some electric pumps I am sure the world will beat a path to his door.
Simon Marshall, Loughborough