Andre Benard died on 15 March 2016 at the age of 93. He was chairman or co-chairman with Sir Alastair Morton during the construction period of the Channel Tunnel 1987 to 1993. Their partnership through difficult financial and contractual crises achieved its completion and formal opening by HM Queen Elizabeth and President Mitterrand.
I worked on the Channel Tunnel from 1981 to 1994 and gained an enormous amount of respect for Andre and Alastair in achieving what many believed was impossible financially at that time; to do so without ‘a penny of public money’ as Mrs Thatcher frequently reminded us.
To celebrate 20 years after the opening of the Tunnel, I organised a reception in the House of Lords in March 2015, for all the many people in the UK, France and elsewhere who had taken part in the development and construction of this project, and we were honoured that Andre was able to join us with his wife, Jacqueline, and say a few words to so many of his old friends.
We shall all miss his inspirational leadership of a unique project.
Terry Gourvish, author of the commissioned history of Britain and the Channel Tunnel, writes:
André Bénard, a former MD of Shell, and a senior adviser to Lazard Frères, was appointed co-chairman of Eurotunnel in 1986. He worked effectively with Alastair Morton, his British counterpart, in steering an often shaky project to completion. Quieter than Sir Alastair, he was no less effective as a leader. The provision of rail infrastructure raised difficult questions on both sides of the Channel, and in 1986-7 the French Finance Ministry was doubtful about the viability of a Paris-Tunnel TGV line. As John Noulton observed in his appreciation last week,* Bénard was a critical figure in persuading the French government to give the go-ahead to this investment. He was also just as prominent as Morton in tackling the numerous disputes which arose with the contractors in the four years before the Tunnel was completed in 1994.
*At the Channel Tunnel 20 conference in Canterbury, marking the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Canterbury.
I append links to obituaries, and will add more if I find them (TB).