The Westerschelde tunnel is bored out to a length of 6.6 kilometres. The tunnel is situated between Ellewoutsdijk and Terneuzen. From a technical point of view, the construction of the tunnel was a unique project. Most tunnels in Europe are built in hard, rocky material. This might seem harder work than the soft bottom of the Westerschelde, but that is not true. It was the first time in the history of Western-Europe that a tunnel of this length and depth had been bored out through sand and clay. The deepest point of the tunnel lies about sixty metres below sea level. In comparison with a bridge or a sunk-down tunnel, a bored tunnel has many advantages: ships can pass by without being hindered, the anchors of the tunnel cannot come loose and most importantly: it is cheaper.
A tunnel at last
As was the case with the Zeeland bridge, the Westerschelde tunnel (2003) is not part of the Deltaworks. However, the tunnel can be seen as an indirect consequence of the deltaworks. The fact is that it was not possible to close the Westerschelde, because the accessibility of the port of Antwerp would be affected. Consequently, the connection between Zeeland Flanders and Walcheren or South-Beveland was not very good. Besides protection, the Deltaworks had also provided good connections. Better connections were an advantage for the tourism and the economy. The areas around the Westerschelde lacked this advantage until 2003. Until that time, only two ferry services existed: one between Vlissingen and Breskens and one between Kruiningen and Perkpolder. During bad weather, these ferry services were often out of service, however. Someone who would want to travel from Middelburg to Oostburg, would either have to wait for service to continue or drive via North-Brabant.
The idea to build a tunnel was not new. Businessmen from Goes already had plans for a tunnel in the 1930s. One did not always agree on the feasibility of these plans, however. There were questions about the costs, position and the bottom in which the tunnel had to be bored. By the end of the sixties, there were plans for a permanent connection between Zeeland Flanders and South-Beveland. The plan involved a suspension bridge and a sunk-down tunnel on the bottom of the Westerschelde. The bridge and the tunnel would be placed on the section where one of the ferry services was sailing, between Kruiningen and Perkpolder. The plan was considered, but was found to be too expensive. It was not until 1986 when the ideas really began coming forward. First it was thought the earlier plan would be continued with. Later however, the prospect of a bored tunnel was thought of more and more. After decades of discussion, a decision was finally reached in 1996: the tunnel would definitely be built. The government and the Province of Zeeland decided that the tunnel would be placed between Ellewoutsdijk (South-Beveland) and Terneuzen (Zeeland Flanders). The works started in 1997 and on the 26th January 1998, the then Minister of Waterways and Public Works, Mrs Jorritsma, officially declared the construction as started. After more than four years of boring and digging, Queen Beatrix officially opened the Westerschelde Tunnel on March 14th, 2003.