The design for a tunnel joining England to France wasn’t original when England started boring the tunnels in late 1987, and the concept of a tunnel joining the two countries wasn’t original when the Channel Tunnel Study Group proposed the dual tunnel system in 1960. The earliest recorded design of a conjoining tunnel system under the English Channel was proposed in 1802 by a French mining engineer named Albert Mathieu-Favier. A different version was proposed by Englishman Henri Mottray in 1803. By 1830, Thomé de Gamond had assembled seven different tunnel designs. In addition, he took some of the first samples and performed surveys in the proposed area. In 1880, the Beaumont & English Company commissioned two boring machines, one on the English side and one on the French side, to begin digging pilot tunnels on each side of the English Channel. The boring machines had completed approximately 6,000 feet when British political officials began spreading rumors of potential security risks associated with the building the tunnels on a military compound, so the project was halted.
In 1955, the British Prime Minister decided security risks were no longer an issue and wanted to continue building the Channel Tunnel in coordination with France. Two years later, the Channel Tunnel Study Group was formed to review the possibility of continuing with the Channel Tunnel Project. The CTSG surveyed the potential locations and performed geological tests for sustainability. By 1960, the Channel Tunnel Study Group presented a new dual tunnel design system. The twin tunnels were to be maintained by the use of a service tunnel connected to the tunnels. The design was approved and the new Channel Tunnel project started in 1973. Unfortunately two years, the Channel Tunnel Project was shut down again. This time, the project was halted due to the gas crisis.
Since the both countries couldn’t manage to maintain the projects, leaders decided agree to turn the Channel Tunnel Project over to private parties. In 1985, 4 new privately funded proposals were submitted for review. Two of the proposals were bridge based, while another consisted of road and railroad tunnels. The fourth submission was a revision of the 1973 dual tunnel design proposed by the Channel Tunnel Study Group. This design was ultimately accepted and the project was named the EuroTunnel Project. In 1986, a new business agreement was formed between an English Company, The Channel Tunnel Group Ltd, and a French company called France-Manche SA. The agreement between the two companies was to last for 55 years. In late 1987, the EuroTunnel Group commenced boring the English side of the tunnel. A few months later, the EuroTunnel Group began boring the tunnel from the French side of the English Tunnel. On December 1, 1990, each side broke through joining both countries via underground tunnel and completing part of the project which started almost 200 years earlier.
Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterand opened the Channel Tunnel on May 6th, 1994. The Channel Tunnel is a dual tunnel system with the capability of carrying freight, passengers, trucks, RV’s and motorhomes underneath the English Channel. The tunnel runs 31.4 miles under the English Channel linking Folkestone, Kent to Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais. Since the EuroTunnel’s official opening in 1994, the train system has expanded, connecting London to the Channel Tunnel. The connecting train system from Kent to London is called High Speed 1 as trains can travel at speeds of 186 miles per hour. Inside the tunnel is a third service tunnel where electric vehicles can operate to maintain the Channel Tunnel as needed. There are also adjoining safe rooms for passengers in case of emergency. England and France provide the necessary electricity to power the Channel Tunnel. The trains receive electricity from over head rail systems, which run along the top of the tunnel.
Today, almost 10,000,000 passengers travel under the English Channel. In addition, over 1,000,000 trucks, over 2,100,000 cars and over 56,000 coaches are transported through the Channel Tunnel Train System. The EuroTunnel Group is recognized as one of the best train and tunnel maintenance groups around the world. The EuroTunnel Group is also working on expansion and innovation for future projects.
Quick facts & figures
Construction Started: 1987
Tunnel Opened: 1994
Annual Passengers: 10,000,000
Tunnel Length: 165,518′
Maximum Speed: 186mph