Channel tunnel celebrates its 30th anniversary

Thirty years ago, the railway tunnel under the Channel between mainland Europe and the United Kingdom was inaugurated. Construction started in December 1987. For seven years, more than 10,000 people worked on this site of the century, which was often perilous and required the invention of new technology, such as the iconic giant tunnel boring machines capable of digging 150 meters a day…

The project, which cost billions, was ready by 1993, and on May 6th, 1994, the tunnel between England and France was officially inaugurated by British Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterrand.

75 meters below sea level

The Channel Tunnel stretches for 51,4 km (32 miles) between its two terminals, one at Folkestone (Kent, England) and the other at Coquelles in the Pas-de-Calais (France). The undersea section runs for 40,2 km (25 miles), making it the longest undersea tunnel in the world. At its deepest point, the tunnel is 75 meters below sea level.

In 30 years, Eurotunnel has become synonymous with commercial success. Over three decades, nearly 500 million people and more than 100 million vehicles have passed beneath the waters of the English Channel on LeShuttle (formerly Eurotunnel), and more than 200 million Eurostar passengers have crossed by train.

Comfort and convenience

The tunnel is a popular way of getting to Paris or Amsterdam – partly due to its speed and convenience, but for the comfort, too. The infrastructure is operated by the French-British company Eurotunnel, a subsidiary of the Getlink group.

The Channel Tunnel is currently used by Eurostar high-speed trains (partly owned by the Belgian railway company NMBS), by freight trains, and by Eurotunnel’s own shuttles (LeShuttle) that transport cars, trucks, and buses – and their occupants – between France and Great Britain Britain.

Low-carbon mobility

The tunnel operator has expressed strong ambitions for the coming years on several occasions. Thus, the tunnel was technologically prepared to handle up to a thousand daily trains.

Eurotunnel aims to further accelerate people’s low-carbon mobility between the UK and continental Europe by doubling the number of new direct destinations from London via the Channel Tunnel over the next ten years.

‘Challenge of the century’

Several railway companies have indicated they are looking at high-speed connections through the Channel Tunnel, such as the German railway company Deutsche Bahn, the Spanish Renfe, the British initiative Evolyn, and the Dutch Heurotrain.

Above all, celebrating 30 years of Eurotunnel is about celebrating a symbol that connects two eras. The opening of the tunnel marked the early era with the “project of the century” and the current era, in which the Eurotunnel is part of the answer to the “challenge of the century”: decarbonizing our economies while maintaining their performance and competitiveness.


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