The Channel Tunnel - Construction, History & Facts

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The Channel Tunnel, also known as Channel or Eurotunnel, is a 50.5 kilometre undersea rail tunnel linking the United Kingdom and France, running beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover, connecting Folkestone, Kent in England to Coquelles near Calais in northern France. It is the second longest Undersea tunnel in the world (after Japan's Seikan Tunnel). The Channel Tunnel is one of the seven wonders of the modern world and one of the wonders of the world.

The tunnel carries high-speed Euro star passenger railway services, Euro tunnel Shuttle RORO vehicle transport and international rail freight trains. In 1996 the American Society of Civil Engineers identified the tunnel as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

Ideas for a cross-Channel fixed link existed as early as 1802 but the eventual successful project, organised by Eurotunnel, began construction in 1988. By 1994 the tunnel commenced operating its through-rail passenger services, linking London to Paris and Brussels, through-rail freight services and vehicle shuttle services. The project's cost overran predictions by 80% and concessionaire Euro tunnel overestimated tunnel traffic and has met financial difficulty.

A small two-inch (5-cm) diametre pilot hole allowed the service tunnel to break through without ceremony on 30 October 1990. On I December 1990 Englishman Graham Fagg and Frenchman Phillipe Cozette broke through the service tunnel with the media watching. Eurotunnel completed the tunnel on time, and the tunnel was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II and French President Francois Mitterrand in a ceremony held in Calais on 6 May 1994.

The Queen travelled through the tunnel to Calais on a Eurostar train which stopped nose to nose with the train which carried President Mitterrand from Paris. Following the ceremony President Mitterrand and the Queen travelled on Le Shuttle to a similar ceremony in Folkestone.

The Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL), now called High Speed l, runs 69 miles (111 km) from St Pancras railway station in London to the Channel Tunnel portal at Folkestone in Kent. It cost 5.8 billion euros. On September 16, 2003 UK Prime Minister Tony Blair opened the first section of High Speed l, from Folkestone to north Kent.

On 6 November 2007 the Queen officially opened High Speed 1 and St Pancras International station, replacing the original slow link to Waterloo International railway station. On the completed High Speed l, trains travel at 300 km per hour. The Eurostar journey from London to Paris takes 2 hours 15 minutes and London to Brussels takes I hour 51 minutes.

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