Sunday, February 20, 2011

Facts about channel tunnel

The Channel Tunnel, or "Chunnel" constitutes an ambitious effort to span one of the most important waterways in the world. The English Channel stretches between France and Great Britain, separating the UK from continental Europe. It as served as a protective barrier in the past--helping to keep England free of invasion from Napoleon and Nazi Germany among others--but can serve as a barrier to travel and trade. For thousands of years, passage across the Channel was limited to boats and ferries (though plane travel appeared in the 20th Century). The Channel Tunnel changed all of that forever.


  1. Plans for building a passage across the English Channel can be traced to 1802, when Albert Mathieu drew up an optimistic plan involving horse-drawn carriages and an island midway across the Channel. British national security concerns soon nixed it, along with numerous similar proposals. In the later half of the 20th Century, however, Britain and France had become close allies, and security concerns were lessened. Even then, it took some time before a proper plan came to fruition. The Treaty of Canterbury, signed in 1986, officially commissioned the project. Tunneling began in June, 1988 on the French side and December of that year on the British side. The Chunnel officially opened in May, 1994.
  2. Specifics

  3. The Channel Tunnel actually consists of three separate tunnels: two railway tunnels and a service tunnel between them. The two terminals stand at Folkestone on the British side and Coquelles (near Calais) on the French side. It runs just over 31 miles, and transportation is permitted for Eurotunnel Shuttle, Eurostar passenger trains and freight trains carrying cargo. Services exist allowing travelers to take cars through: the cars are placed on trains and then unloaded on the far side, allowing for easy transport.
  4. Speed

  5. The biggest advantage of the Channel Tunnel has been the speed of overland routes between Britain and France. The rigmarole of air traffic is eliminated, and there's no need to take a slow-moving ferry. High speed trains traveling through the Channel Tunnel can complete a trip from London to Paris in about 2 hours and 15 minutes.
  6. Traffic Levels

  7. Traffic levels have not been what the Channel Tunnel builders anticipated, and the endeavor has often operated at a loss. Freight tonnage varies between 1.2 million and 3 million per year, though that number has steadily declined since 2001. The number of passengers using the Chunnel averages about 15 million per year.
  8. Fires

  9. As of 2009, three fires large enough to necessitate its closure have broken out in the Channel Tunnel. The first took place in 1996, the second in 2000 and the third in 2008. No one was killed in those fires--Britain and France have coordinated emergency plans for most contingencies--but they have caused expensive damage to the Channel facilities.

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