Channel Tunnel

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Channel Tunnel. The earliest detailed proposal for a tunnel dates from the peace of Amiens in 1802, suggesting two tunnels with horse-drawn vehicles and stabling facilities. Mercifully it was not built. The invention of railways made the project more practical. The London, Chatham, and Dover Company made some exploratory digs and an English Channel Company was formed in 1872. A rival enterprise, sponsored by the South Eastern Company, began operations at Shakespeare Cliff in 1881. But in 1883 both schemes were abandoned, partly for strategic reasons. After the development of an Entente with France in the 1900s, the argument could be put into reverse. In 1966, the prime ministers of France and Britain pledged themselves to have the tunnel built. Financial difficulties caused the project to languish but a further agreement was signed in 1986. By this time opinion had hardened against a bridge and in favour of a rail tunnel only. Work began in December 1987, the main difficulties being financial rather than technological. The link from each side was established in December 1990 and the tunnelling completed by June 1991. The official opening by President Mitterrand and Queen Elizabeth II was in May 1994. After a series of embarrassing and entertaining mishaps, the first travellers passed through in November 1994. There are two rail tunnels, conveying cars and freight, and a smaller service tunnel. From Waterloo station to Paris is a three-hour run for passengers but the permanent terminal is intended for St Pancras. The tunnel is 31 miles long, second only to the Seikan tunnel in Japan.

J. A. Cannon

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Channel Tunnel, popularly called the "Chunnel," a three-tunnel railroad connection running under the English Channel, connecting Folkestone, England, and Calais, France. The tunnels are 31 mi (50 km) long. There are two rail tunnels, each 25 ft (7.6 m) in diameter, and a central tunnel, 16 ft (4.8 m) in diameter, that is used for maintenance and ventilation. The depth of the tunnels below the seabed averages about 150 ft (45 m). The project was a joint English and French venture, with a concession to operate the tunnel (until 2086) granted to Eurotunnel, a private company, and is the centerpiece of a high-speed rail link between London and Paris.

The project began with the signing of the Channel Tunnel Treaty between France and Britain in 1986; passenger service began in 1994. Freight trains and automobile- and truck-shuttle trains also use the tunnel. A higher than expected cost of digging the tunnels and lower than predicted tunnel traffic levels left Eurotunnel with huge debts, the repayment of which strained the finances of the company, threatened the company with insolvency, and led a French court to grant (2006) Eurotunnel creditor protection while the company reorganized (as Groupe Eurotunnel in 2007) and restructured its debt.

See G. Anderson and B. Roskrow, The Channel Tunnel Story (1994); T. Byrd, Making of the Channel Tunnel (1994); C. J. Kirkland, ed., Engineering the Channel Tunnel (1995).

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Channel Tunnel (Chunnel) Railway tunnel under the English Channel, 49km (30.6mi) long. The first Channel tunnel was proposed in 1802 by a French engineer. A start was made in 1882, but soon abandoned for defence reasons. Another false start was made in the 1970s. In 1985, Eurotunnel, a joint French-English private company, was granted a 55-year concession to finance and operate the tunnel. The French and English sections were linked in 1990, and the tunnel became operational in 1994. Consisting of two railway tunnels and one service tunnel, it links Folkestone, s England, with Calais, n France. A tunnel fire in November 1996 raised safety fears.

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Channel Tunnel a railway tunnel under the English Channel, linking the coasts of England and France, opened in 1994 and 49 km (31 miles) long. The name considerably predates the actual tunnel, as the idea was discussed in the 19th century. The humorous blend Chunnel, referring to such a project, is found from the 1920s.