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Channel Tunnel

    The world’s longest undersea tunnel runs under the English Channel, between England and France. It is an amazing engineering achievement. The tunnel sometimes called the Channel, is just over 50 kilometers long and runs for 38 kilometers under the sea bed. The Seikan Tunnel in Japan is slightly longer, but runs under more land and less sea. The Channel Tunnel was opened in 1994 as part of an up-to –date transport system linking Britain with the Continent.

    For the last 200 years, engineers have made many suggestions for a cross-Channel link. A tunnel was first proposed in 1802, and a Channel Tunnel Committee was formed as long ago as 1872. Some engineers have even considered building a bridge across the Channel. But it was not until 1985 that the British and French governments asked companies to draw up serious plans for a tunnel. A year later they chose the best of the nine schemes they received.

    The Channel is, in fact, three tunnels - two rail tunnels and a smaller service tunnel. Digging began from the English side in December 1987, and from the French side three months later. Huge machines with revolving cutting heads took a month to dig each kilometer. Altogether the tunneling took three years.

    The tunnels were bored at an average depth of 45 meters beneath the sea bed. When the two halves of the service tunnel were just 100 meters apart, a small tunnel was dug by hand to connect them. Workers broke through art the end of 1990. The breakthroughs of the two rail tunnels took place on 22nd May and 28th June 1991.

    Seven months later all three tunnels were connected, ready to be cleaned up and have railway tracks laid. At the same time, engineers were working on the rail terminals at Folkestone, in England, and near Calais in France. The Channel Tunnel was opened by Queen Elizabeth II and President Mitterrand on 6th May 1994.


    Cars, coaches and Lorries use the tunnel's shuttle service like a moving motorway. They drive on to a carriage at one end, and off at the other after a 35 minute trip. Electric locomotives drive the shuttles at up to 160 kilometers an hour. Special high-speed trains also carry passenger’s non-stop between London, Paris and Brussels.

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