Channel TunnelThe Channel Tunnel, (or Chunnel, or le tunnel sous la Manche) is a rail tunnel beneath the English Channel at the Straits of Dover, connecting Cheriton in Kent, England and Sangatte in northern France. A long-standing project that saw several false starts, it was finally completed in 1994.
A link between Britain and France had been proposed on many occasions, but it was not until the 19th century that people came to believe that the necessary engineering ability was present. Various French and British engineers put forward proposals and digging for a tunnel was actually started for a brief while in 1880. However the British government was firmly opposed to a link, fearing that it could serve the French as an invasion route. It was not until after World War II that the concept began receiving serious attention.
In 1957 the Channel Tunnel Study Group was formed. It reported in 1960 and recommended a railway tunnel of two main tunnels and a smaller service tunnel. The project was launched in 1973 before the folding due to financial problems in 1975.
In 1984 the idea was relaunched with a Anglo-French government request for proposals to build a privately funded link. Of the four submissions received the one most closely resembling the 1973 plan was chosen and announced on January 20, 1986. The Fixed Link Treaty was signed by the two governments in Canterbury, Kent on February 12, 1986 and ratified in 1987.
The tunnel took 15,000 workers over seven years to complete. It was formed by drilling two main train tunnels, with a smaller access (and emergency evacuation) tunnel between them, through the chalk marl beneath the water. The French drilled their tunnels out from Calais, the British from Folkestone. Their efforts met roughly halfway, and were linked to form a continuous passage. For the first time since the end of the Weichsel glacial period, it was possible to travel between Great Britain and Europe on a land route. The two enormous drilling machines used to dig the tunnels were driven aside and remain entombed beneath the seabed, abandoned to future archeologists.
It is 50 km long, out of which 39 km are undersea. The average depth is 40 m underneath the seabed. It opened for travel later in 1994 and its rail service carries vehicles as well as passengers. Nearly 7 million passengers take the 35 minute journey travel through the tunnel every year.
The tunnel is operated by Eurotunnel. Three types of train services operate:
- Eurostar, a high speed passenger service, running from London to Paris and Brussels with stops at Ashford, Calais-Frethun and Lille.
- Le Shuttle, which carries cars and lorries across the channel similarly to the ferries: these run from Sangatte (Calais/Coquelles) to Folkestone
- Freight trains
It has been declared one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The Channel Tunnel Rail Link, when completed (it is currently in use from mid-Kent to Cheriton), will provide the missing high-speed rail link from London to the tunnel