Channel Tunnel: Wikis


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Channel Tunnel
Map of the Channel Tunnel
Location English Channel (Strait of Dover)
Coordinates Folkestone: 51°5′49.5″N 1°9′21″E / 51.097083°N 1.15583°E / 51.097083; 1.15583 (Folkestone Portal)
Coquelles: 50°55′22″N 1°46′50.16″E / 50.92278°N 1.7806°E / 50.92278; 1.7806 (Coquelles Portal)
Status Active
Start Folkestone, Kent, United Kingdom
End Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais, France
Opened 6 May 1994 (tunnel)
14 November 1994 (passenger service)
Owner Eurotunnel
Operator Eurotunnel
DB Schenker Rail (UK)
Character Through-rail passenger and freight. Vehicle shuttle.
Line length 50.45 km (31.35 mi)
No. of tracks 2 single track tunnels
1 service tunnel
Gauge standard: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in)
Electrified 25 kV AC OHLE

The Channel Tunnel (French: Le tunnel sous la Manche), known colloquially as the Chunnel, is a 50.5-kilometre (31.4 mi) undersea rail tunnel linking Folkestone, Kent near Dover in the United Kingdom with Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais near Calais in northern France beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover. At its lowest point it is 75 m (246 ft) deep.[1][2][3] At 37.9 km (23.5 mi), the Channel Tunnel has the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world although the Seikan Tunnel in Japan is both longer overall, at 53.85 km (33.46 mi) and deeper, at 240 m (790 ft) below sea level.

The tunnel carries high-speed Eurostar passenger trains, Eurotunnel Shuttle roll-on/roll-off vehicle transport—the largest in the world—and international rail freight trains.[4] The tunnel connects end-to-end with the LGV Nord and High Speed 1 high-speed railway lines. In 1996 the American Society of Civil Engineers identified the tunnel as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.[5]

Ideas for a cross-Channel fixed link appeared as early as 1802,[6][7] but British political and press pressure over compromised national security stalled attempts to construct a tunnel.[8] However, the eventual successful project, organised by Eurotunnel, began construction in 1988 and opened in 1994. The project came in 80% over its predicted budget.[9] Since its construction, the tunnel has faced several problems. Fires have disrupted operation of the tunnel. Illegal immigrants and asylum seekers have used the tunnel to enter Britain,[10] causing a minor diplomatic disagreement over the siting of the Sangatte refugee camp, which was eventually closed in 2002.[11]



Proposals and attempts

Key dates
1802 Albert Mathieu put forward a cross-Channel tunnel proposal.
1875 The Channel Tunnel Company Ltd[12] began preliminary trials
1882 The Abbot's Cliff heading had reached 897 yards (820 m) and that at Shakespeare Cliff was 2,040 yards (1,870 m) in length
January 1975 A UK–France government backed scheme that started in 1974 was cancelled
February 1986 The Treaty of Canterbury was signed allowing the project to proceed
June 1988 First tunnelling commenced in France
December 1988 UK TBM commenced operation
December 1990 The service tunnel broke through under the Channel
May 1994 The tunnel was formally opened by HM The Queen and President Mitterrand
Mid 1994 Freight and passenger trains commenced operation
November 1996 A fire in a lorry shuttle severely damaged the tunnel
November 2007 High Speed 1, linking London to the tunnel, opened
September 2008 Another fire in a lorry shuttle severely damaged the tunnel
December 2009 Eurostar trains stranded in the tunnel due to condensation affecting the trains' electrical hardware

In 1802, French mining engineer Albert Mathieu put forward a proposal to tunnel under the English Channel, with illumination from oil lamps, horse-drawn coaches, and an artificial island mid-Channel for changing horses.[6]

In the 1830s, Frenchman Aimé Thomé de Gamond performed the first geological and hydrographical surveys on the Channel, between Calais and Dover. Thomé de Gamond explored several schemes and, in 1856, he presented a proposal to Napoleon III for a mined railway tunnel from Cap Gris-Nez to Eastwater Point with a port/airshaft on the Varne sandbank[13] at a cost of 170 million francs, or less than £7 million.[14]

Thomé de Gamond's 1856 plan for a cross-Channel link, with a port/airshaft on the Varne sandbank mid-Channel

In 1865, a deputation led by George Ward Hunt proposed the idea of a tunnel to the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day, William Ewart Gladstone.[15]

After 1867, William Low and Sir John Clarke Hawkshaw promoted ideas, but none were implemented. An official Anglo-French protocol was established in 1876 for a cross-Channel railway tunnel. In 1881, British railway entrepreneur Sir William Watkin and French Suez Canal contractor Alexandre Lavalley were in the Anglo-French Submarine Railway Company that conducted exploratory work on both sides of the Channel. On the English side a 2.13-metre (7 ft) diameter Beumont-English boring machine dug a 1,893-metre (6,211 ft) pilot tunnel from Shakespeare Cliff. On the French side, a similar machine dug 1,669 m (5,476 ft) from Sangatte. The project was abandoned in May 1882, owing to British political and press campaigns advocating that a tunnel would compromise Britain's national defences.[8] These early works were encountered more than a century later during the TML project.

In 1955, defence arguments were accepted to be irrelevant because of the dominance of air power; thus, both the British and French governments supported technical and geological surveys. Construction work commenced on both sides of the Channel in 1974, a government-funded project using twin tunnels on either side of a service tunnel, with capability for car shuttle wagons. In January 1975, to the dismay of the French partners, the British government cancelled the project. The government had changed to the Labour Party and there was uncertainty about EEC membership, cost estimates had ballooned to 200% and the national economy was troubled. By this time the British Priestly tunnel boring machine was ready and the Ministry of Transport was able to do a 300 m (980 ft) experimental drive.[8] This short tunnel would however be reused as the starting and access point for tunnelling operations from the British side.

In 1979, the "Mouse-hole Project" was suggested when the Conservatives came to power in Britain. The concept was a single-track rail tunnel with a service tunnel, but without shuttle terminals. The British government took no interest in funding the project, but Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said she had no objection to a privately funded project. In 1981 British and French leaders Margaret Thatcher and François Mitterrand agreed to set up a working group to look into a privately funded project, and in April 1985 promoters were formally invited to submit scheme proposals. Four submissions were shortlisted:

  • a rail proposal based on the 1975 scheme presented by Channel Tunnel Group/France–Manche (CTG/F–M),
  • Eurobridge: a 4.5 km (2.8 mi) span suspension bridge with a roadway in an enclosed tube
  • Euroroute: a 21 km (13 mi) tunnel between artificial islands approached by bridges, and
  • Channel Expressway: large diameter road tunnels with mid-channel ventilation towers.[8]

The cross-Channel ferry industry protested under the name "Flexilink". In 1975 there was no campaign protesting a fixed link, with one of the largest ferry operators (Sealink) being state-owned. Flexilink continued rousing opposition throughout 1986 and 1987.[8] Public opinion strongly favoured a drive-through tunnel, but ventilation issues, concerns about accident management, and fear of driver mesmerisation led to the only shortlisted rail submission, CTG/F-M, being awarded the project.[8]


A block diagram describing the organisation structure used on the project. Eurotunnel is the central organisation for construction and operation (via a concession) of the tunnel

The British Channel Tunnel Group consisted of two banks and five construction companies, while their French counterparts, France–Manche, consisted of three banks and five construction companies. The role of the banks was to advise on financing and secure loan commitments. On 2 July 1985, the groups formed Channel Tunnel Group/France–Manche (CTG/F–M). Their submission to the British and French governments was drawn from the 1975 project, including 11 volumes and a substantial environmental impact statement.[8]

The design and construction was done by the ten construction companies in the CTG/F-M group. The French terminal and boring from Sangatte was undertaken by the five French construction companies in the joint venture group GIE Transmanche Construction. The English Terminal and boring from Shakespeare Cliff was undertaken by the five British construction companies in the Trankslink Joint Venture. The two partnerships were linked by TransManche Link (TML), a bi- national project organisation.[8] The Maître d'Oeuvre was a supervisory engineering body employed by Eurotunnel under the terms of the concession that monitored project activity and reported back to the governments and banks.[16]

In France, with its long tradition of infrastructure investment, the project garnered widespread approval and in April 1987 the French National Assembly gave unanimous support and, in June 1987, after a public inquiry, the Senate gave unanimous support. In Britain, select committees examined the proposal, making history by holding hearings outside of Westminster, in Kent. In February 1987, the third reading of the Channel Tunnel Bill took place in the House of Commons, and was carried by 94 votes to 22. The Channel Tunnel Act gained Royal assent and passed into English law in July of that year.[8]

The Channel Tunnel is a build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) project with a concession.[17] TML would design and build the tunnel, but financing was through a separate legal entity: Eurotunnel. Eurotunnel absorbed CTG/F-M and signed a construction contract with TML; however, the British and French governments controlled final engineering and safety decisions. The British and French governments gave Eurotunnel a 55- (later 65-) year operating concession to repay loans and pay dividends. A Railway Usage Agreement was signed between Eurotunnel, British Rail and the Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français guaranteeing future revenue in exchange for the railways obtaining half of the tunnel's capacity.

Private funding for such a complex infrastructure project was of unprecedented scale. An initial equity of £45 million was raised by CTG/F-M, increased by £206 million private institutional placement, £770 million was raised in a public share offer that included press and television advertisements, a syndicated bank loan and letter of credit arranged £5 billion.[8] Privately financed, the total investment costs at 1985 prices were £2600 million. At the 1994 completion actual costs were, in 1985 prices, £4650 million: an 80% cost overrun.[9] The cost overrun was partly due to enhanced safety, security, and environmental demands.[17] Financing costs were 140% higher than forecast.[18]


Eleven tunnel boring machines, working from both sides of the Channel, cut through chalk marl to construct two rail tunnels and a service tunnel. The vehicle shuttle terminals are at Cheriton (part of Folkestone) and Coquelles, and are connected to the British and French motorways (M20 and A16 respectively).

Tunnelling commenced in 1988, and the tunnel began operating in 1994.[19] In 1985 prices, the total construction cost was £4650 million (equivalent to £10501 million today), an 80% cost overrun. At the peak of construction 15,000 people were employed with daily expenditure over £3 million.[20] Ten workers, eight of them British, were killed during construction between 1987 and 1993, most in the first few months of boring.[21][22][23]


The Channel Tunnel was opened in Calais on 6 May 1994 by British Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterrand

A small, two-inch (50-mm) diameter pilot hole allowed the service tunnel to break through without ceremony on 30 October 1990.[24] On 1 December 1990, Englishman Graham Fagg and Frenchman Phillippe Cozette broke through the service tunnel with the media watching.[25] Eurotunnel completed the tunnel on time,[17] and the tunnel was officially opened by British Queen Elizabeth II and French President François 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 that carried President Mitterrand from Paris.[26] Following the ceremony President Mitterrand and the Queen travelled on Le Shuttle to a similar ceremony in Folkestone.[26]

The Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL), now called High Speed 1, 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. On 16 September 2003 UK Prime Minister Tony Blair opened the first section of High Speed 1, from Folkestone to north Kent. On 6 November 2007 the Queen officially opened High Speed 1 and St Pancras International station,[27] replacing the original slower link to Waterloo International railway station. On High Speed 1 trains travelling at speeds up to 300 km/h (186 mph), the journey from London to Paris takes 2 hours 15 minutes and London to Brussels takes 1 hour 51 minutes.[28]

In 1996, the American Society of Civil Engineers, with Popular Mechanics, selected the tunnel as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.[5]


The Channel Tunnel exhibit at the National Railway Museum in York, England, showing the circular cross section of the tunnel with the overhead line powering a Eurostar train. Also visible is the segmented tunnel lining

Surveying undertaken in the twenty years before tunnel construction confirmed earlier speculations that a tunnel route could be bored through a chalk marl stratum. The chalk marl was conducive to tunnelling, with impermeability, ease of excavation and strength. While on the English side the chalk marl ran along the entire length of the tunnel, on the French side a length of 5 kilometres (3 mi) had variable and difficult geology. The Channel Tunnel consists of three bores: two 7.6-metre (25 ft) diameter rail tunnels, 30 metres (98 ft) apart, 50 kilometres (31 mi) in length with a 4.8-metre (16 ft) diameter service tunnel in between. There are also cross-passages and piston relief ducts. The service tunnel was used as a pilot tunnel, boring ahead of the main tunnels to determine the conditions. English access was provided at Shakespeare Cliff, while French access came from a shaft at Sangatte. The French side used five tunnel boring machines (TBMs), the English side used six. The service tunnel uses Service Tunnel Transport System (STTS) and Light Service Tunnel Vehicles (LADOGS). Fire safety was a critical design issue.

Between the portals at Beussingue and Castle Hill the tunnel is 50.5 kilometres (31 mi) long, with 3.3 kilometres (2 mi) under land on the French side, 9.3 kilometres (6 mi) under land on the UK side and 37.9 kilometres (24 mi) under sea.[2] This makes the Channel Tunnel the second longest rail tunnel in the world, behind the Seikan Tunnel in Japan, but with the longest under-sea section.[29] The average depth is 45 metres (148 ft) below the seabed.[30] On the UK side, of the expected 5 million cubic metres (6.5×10^6 cu yd) of spoil approximately 1 million cubic metres (1.3×10^6 cu yd) was used for fill at the terminal site, and the remainder was deposited at Lower Shakespeare Cliff behind a seawall, reclaiming 74 acres (30 ha)[20] of land.[31] This land was then made into the Samphire Hoe Country Park. Environmental impact assessment did not identify any major risks for the project, and further studies into safety, noise, and air pollution were overall positive. However, environmental objections were raised over a high-speed link to London.[32]


Geological profile along the tunnel as constructed. For the majority of its length the tunnel bores through a chalk marl stratum (layer)

Successful tunnelling under the channel required a sound understanding of the topography and geology and the selection of the best rock strata through which to tunnel. The geology generally consists of northeasterly dipping Cretaceous strata, part of the northern limb of the Wealden-Boulonnais dome. Characteristics include:

  • Continuous chalk on the cliffs on either side of the Channel containing no major faulting, as observed by Verstegan in 1698
  • Four geological strata, marine sediments laid down 90–100 million years ago; pervious upper and middle chalk above slightly pervious lower chalk and finally impermeable Gault Clay. A sandy stratum, glauconitic marl (tortia), is in between the chalk marl and gault clay
  • A 25–30-metre (82–98 ft) layer of chalk marl (French: craie bleue) in the lower third of the lower chalk appeared to present the best tunnelling medium. The chalk has a clay content of 30–40% providing impermeability to groundwater yet relatively easy excavation with strength allowing minimal support. Ideally the tunnel would be bored in the bottom 15 metres (49 ft) of the chalk marl, allowing water inflow from fractures and joints to be minimised, but above the gault clay that would increase stress on the tunnel lining and swell and soften when wet.[33]

On the English side of the channel, the strata dip less than 5°, however, on the French side, this increases to 20°. Jointing and faulting is present on both the English and French sides. On the English side, only minor faults of displacement less than 2 metres (7 ft) exist. On the French side, displacements of up to 15 metres (49 ft) are present owing to the Quenocs anticlinal fold. The faults are of limited width, filled with calcite, pyrite and remoulded clay. The increased dip and faulting restricted the selection of route on the French side. To avoid confusion microfossil assemblages were used to classify the chalk marl. On the French side, particularly near the coast, the chalk was harder, more brittle, and more fractured than on the English side. This led to the adoption of different tunnelling techniques on the French and English sides.[34]

No major geological hazards were identified; however, the Quaternary undersea valley Fosse Dangaered, and Castle Hill landslip located at the English portal, caused concerns. Identified by the 1964–65 geophysical survey, the Fosse Dangaered is an infilled valley system extending 80 metres (262 ft) below the seabed, 500 metres (1,640 ft) south of the tunnel route, located mid-channel. A 1986 survey showed that a tributary crossed the path of the tunnel, and so the tunnel route was made as far north and deep as possible. The English terminal had to be located in the Castle Hill landslip, which consists of displaced and tipping blocks of lower chalk, glauconitic marl and gault debris. Thus the area was stabilised by buttressing and inserting drainage adits.[34] The service tunnels were pilot tunnels preceding the main tunnels, so that the geology, areas of crushed rock, and zones of high water inflow could be predicted. Exploratory probing took place in the service tunnels, in the form of extensive forward probing, vertical downward probes and sideways probing.[34]


Marine soundings and samplings by Thomé de Gamond were carried out during 1833–67, establishing the seabed depth at a maximum of 55 metres (180 ft) and the continuity of geological strata (layers). Surveying continued over many years, with 166 marine and 70 land-deep boreholes being drilled and over 4000 line kilometres of marine geophysical survey completed.[35] Surveys were undertaken in 1958–59, 1964–65, 1972–74 and 1986–88.

The surveying in 1958–59 catered for immersed tube and bridge designs as well as a bored tunnel, and thus a wide area was investigated. At this time marine geophysics surveying for engineering projects was in its infancy, with poor positioning and resolution from seismic profiling. The 1964-65 surveys concentrated on a northerly route that left the English coast at Dover harbour; using 70 boreholes, an area of deeply weathered rock with high permeability was located just south of Dover harbour.[35]

Given the previous survey results and access constraints, a more southerly route was investigated in the 1972–73 survey and the route was confirmed to be feasible. Information for the tunnelling project also came from work before the 1975 cancellation. On the French side at Sangatte a deep shaft with adits was made. On the English side at Shakespeare Cliff, the government allowed 250 metres (820 ft) of 4.5 metres (15 ft) diameter tunnel to be driven. The actual tunnel alignment, method of excavation and support were essentially the same as the 1975 attempt. In the 1986–97 survey, previous findings were reinforced and the nature of the gault clay and tunnelling medium, chalk marl that made up 85% of the route, were investigated. Geophysical techniques from the oil industry were employed.[35]


Typical tunnel cross section, with a service tunnel between twin rail tunnels. Shown linking the rail tunnels is a piston relief duct, necessary to manage pressure changes due to the movement of trains

Tunnelling between England and France was a major engineering challenge, with the only precedent being the undersea Seikan Tunnel in Japan. A serious risk with underwater tunnels is major water inflow due to the water pressure from the sea above under weak ground conditions. The Channel Tunnel also had the challenge of time—being privately funded, early financial return was paramount.

The objective was to construct: two 7.6-metre (25 ft) diameter rail tunnels, 30 metres (98 ft) apart, 50 kilometres (31 mi) in length; a 4.8-metre (16 ft) diameter service tunnel between the two main tunnels; pairs of 3.3-metre (11 ft) diameter cross-passages linking the rail tunnels to the service tunnel at 375-metre (1,230 ft) spacing; piston relief ducts 2-metre (7 ft) diameter connecting the rail tunnels at 250-metre (820 ft) spacing; two undersea crossover caverns to connect the rail tunnels.[36] The service tunnel always preceded the main tunnels by at least 1 kilometre (0.6 mi) to ascertain the ground conditions. There was plenty of experience with tunnelling through chalk in the mining industry. The undersea crossover caverns were a complex engineering problem. The French cavern was based on the Mount Baker Ridge freeway tunnel in the USA. The UK cavern was dug from the service tunnel ahead of the main tunnels to avoid delay.

Precast segmental linings in the main TBM drives were used, but different solutions were used on the English and French sides. On the French side, neoprene and grout sealed bolted linings made of cast iron or high-strength reinforced concrete were used. On the English side, the main requirement was for speed and bolting of cast-iron lining segments was only carried out in areas of poor geology. In the UK rail tunnels, eight lining segments plus a key segment were used; on the French side, five segments plus a key segment.[37] On the French side, a 55-metre (180 ft) diameter 75-metre (246 ft) deep grout-curtained shaft at Sangatte was used for access. On the English side, a marshalling area was 140 metres (459 ft) below the top of Shakespeare Cliff, and the New Austrian Tunnelling method (NATM) was first applied in the chalk marl here. On the English side, the land tunnels were driven from Shakespeare Cliff, the same place as the marine tunnels, not from Folkestone. The platform at the base of the cliff was not large enough for all of the drives and, despite environmental objections, tunnel spoil was placed behind a reinforced concrete seawall, on condition of placing the chalk in an enclosed lagoon to avoid wide dispersal of chalk fines. Owing to limited space, the precast lining factory was on the Isle of Grain in the Thames estuary.[36]

On the French side, owing to the greater permeability to water, earth pressure balance TBMs with open and closed modes were used. The TBMs were of a closed nature during the initial 5 kilometres (3 mi), but then operated as open, boring through the chalk marl stratum.[36] This minimised the impact to the ground and allowed high water pressures to be withstood, and it also alleviated the need to grout ahead of the tunnel. The French effort required five TBMs: two main marine machines, one main land machine (the short land drives of 3 km allowed one TBM to complete the first drive then reverse direction and complete the other), and two service tunnel machines. On the English side, the simpler geology allowed faster open-faced TBMs.[38] Six machines were used, all commenced digging from Shakespeare Cliff, three marine-bound and three for the land tunnels.[36] Towards the completion of the undersea drives, the UK TBMs were driven steeply downwards and buried clear of the tunnel. The French TBMs then completed the tunnel and were dismantled.[39] A 900 mm gauge railway was used on the English side during construction.[40]

In contrast to the English machines, which were simply given alphanumeric names, the French tunnelling machines were all named after women: Brigitte, Europa, Catherine, Virginie, Pascaline, Séverine.[41]

Railway design

Interior of Eurotunnel Shuttle, a vehicle shuttle train. The largest railway wagons in the world,[20] the shuttle trains transport vehicles between terminals on either side of the tunnel


There are three communication systems in the tunnel: concession radio (CR) for mobile vehicles and personnel within Eurotunnel's Concession (terminals, tunnels, coastal shafts); track-to-train radio (TTR) for secure speech and data between trains and the railway control centre; Shuttle internal radio (SIR) for communication between shuttle crew and to passengers over car radios.[42]

Power supply

All tunnel services run on electricity, shared equally from English and French sources. Power is delivered to the locomotives via an overhead line (catenary)[43] at 25 kV 50 Hz.[44]

A large proportion of the railway south of London uses a 750 V DC third rail to deliver electrical power; however since the opening of High Speed 1 there is no need to use the third rail system for any part of the Eurostar journey. High Speed 1, the tunnel itself and the route to Paris has power provided via overhead catenary at 25 kV 50 Hz. The railways in Brussels are also electrified by overhead catenaries, but at 3000 V DC.[44]


A cab signalling system is used that gives information directly to train drivers on a display. There is Automatic Train Protection (ATP) that stops the train if the speed differs from that indicated on the in-cab display. TVM430, as used on LGV Nord, is used in the tunnel.[45] The maximum allowed speed is 160 km/h.[46]

Track system

The American Sonneville International Corporation track system consisting of UIC60 rails on 900A grade resting on microcellular EVA pads, bolted into concrete was chosen.[47] The larger European GB+ loading gauge was used rather that one of the smaller UK alternatives; this gauge is maintained on High Speed 1 as far as Barking in east London.[48] ballasted track was ruled out owing to maintenance constraints and a need for geometric stability.

Rolling stock

Eurotunnel Shuttle

Initially 38 Le Shuttle locomotives were commissioned, working in pairs with one at each end of a shuttle train. The shuttles have two separate halves: single and double deck. Each half has two loading/unloading wagons and twelve carrier wagons. Eurotunnel's original order was for nine tourist shuttles.

HGV shuttles also have two halves, with each half containing one loading wagon, one unloading wagon and 14 carrier wagons. There is a club car behind the leading locomotive. Eurotunnel originally ordered six HGV shuttles rakes.

Freight locomotives

Forty-six Class 92 locomotives for hauling freight trains and overnight passenger trains (the Nightstar project, which was abandoned) were commissioned, which can run on both overhead AC and third-rail DC power.

International passenger

Thirty-one Eurostar trains—based on the French TGV—built to UK loading gauge, and with many modifications for safety within the tunnel, were commissioned, with split ownership between British Rail, French National Railway Company and National Railway Company of Belgium. British Rail ordered seven more for services north of London.[49]

At the end of 2009, extensive fire-proofing requirements were dropped and Deutsche Bahn received permission to run German Intercity-Express (ICE) trains through the Channel Tunnel in the future.[50][51]

Service locomotives

Diesel locomotives for rescue and shunting work are Eurotunnel Class 0001 and Eurotunnel Class 0031.


Usage and services

A Channel Tunnel traffic graph showing the number of passengers and tonnes of freight. Freight vehicle shuttle numbers dropped in 1996/7 owing to closure of the service after the November 1996 fire
The British terminal at Cheriton in west Folkestone. The terminal services shuttle trains that carry vehicles, and is linked to the M20 motorway
The Folkestone White Horse is the last view of England for most passengers embarking at the Cheriton terminal

Services offered by the tunnel are:

  • Eurotunnel Shuttle (formerly Le Shuttle) roll-on roll-off shuttle service for road vehicles,
  • Eurostar passenger trains,
  • through freight trains.[4]

Both the freight and passenger traffic forecasts that led to the construction of the tunnel were largely and universally overestimated. Particularly, Eurotunnel's commissioned forecasts were over-predictions.[52] Although the captured share of Channel crossings (competing with air and sea) was forecast correctly, high competition and reduced tariffs has led to low revenue. Overall cross-Channel traffic was overestimated.[53]

However with the EU's liberalisation of international rail services, the tunnel and High Speed 1 have been open to competition since 2010. There have been a number of operators interested in running services including Deutsche Bahn, through the tunnel and along High Speed 1 to London.

Passenger traffic volumes

Total cross-tunnel passenger traffic volumes peaked at 18.4 million in 1998, then dropped to 14.9 million in 2003, from then rising again to 16.1 million in 2008.

At the time of deciding to build the tunnel, 15.9 million passengers were predicted for Eurostar trains in the opening year. In 1995, the first full year, actual numbers were a little over 2.9 million, growing to 7.1 million in 2000, then dropping again to 6.3 million in 2003. However, Eurostar was also limited by the lack of a high-speed connection on the British side. After the completion of High Speed 1 (formerly CTRL) to London in two stages in 2003 and 2007, traffic increased. In 2008, Eurostar carried 9,113,371 passengers in cross-Channel-Tunnel traffic, a 10% increase over the previous year, despite traffic limitations due to the 2008 Channel Tunnel fire.[54]

 Year  Passengers transported...
by Eurostar[A][55][56]
(actual ticket sales)
by Eurotunnel Passenger Shuttles[53][55]
(estimated, millions)
(estimated, millions)
1994 ~100,000[53] 0.2 0.3
1995 2,920,309 4.4 7.3
1996 4,995,010 7.9 12.9
1997 6,004,268 8.6 14.6
1998 6,307,849 12.1 18.4
1999 6,593,247 11.0 17.6
2000 7,130,417 9.9 17.0
2001 6,947,135 9.4 16.3
2002 6,602,817 8.6 15.2
2003 6,314,795 8.6 14.9
2004 7,276,675 7.8 15.1
2005 7,454,497 8.2 15.7
2006 7,858,337 7.8 15.7
2007 8,260,980 7.9 16.2
2008 9,113,371 7.0 16.1

A only passengers taking Eurostar to cross the Channel

Freight traffic volumes

Cross-tunnel freight traffic volumes have been erratic, with a decrease during 1997 due to a closure caused by a fire in a freight shuttle. The total freight crossings increased over the period, indicating the substitutability of the tunnel by sea crossings. The tunnel has achieved a cross-Channel freight traffic market share close to or above Eurotunnel's 1980s predictions but Eurotunnel's 1990 and 1994 predictions were overestimates.

For freight transported on through freight trains, the first year freight prediction was 7.2 million gross tonnes, however, the 1995 figure was 1.3 million gross tonnes.[52] Through freight volumes peaked in 1998 at 3.1 million tonnes. However, with continuing problems, this figure fell back to 1.21 million tonnes in 2007, increasing again slightly to 1.24 million tonnes in 2008.[54]

However, together with that carried on freight shuttles, freight traffic growth has occurred since opening, with 6.4 million tonnes carried in 1995, 18.4 million tonnes recorded in 2003[53] and 19.6 million tonnes in 2007.[55]

 Year  Freight transported...
by through freight trains[56]
(actual tonnes)
by Eurotunnel Truck Shuttles[53][55]
(estimated, million tonnes)
(estimated, million tonnes)
1994 0 0.8[53] 0.8
1995 1,349,802 5.1 6.4
1996 2,783,774 6.7 9.5
1997 2,925,171 3.3 6.2
1998 3,141,438 9.2 12.3
1999 2,865,251 10.9 13.8
2000 2,947,385 14.7 17.6
2001 2,447,432 15.6 18.0
2002 1,463,580 15.6 17.1
2003 1,743,686[57] 16.7 18.4
2004 1,889,175[58] 16.6 18.5
2005 1,587,790[58] 17.0 18.6
2006 1,569,429[59] 16.9 18.5
2007 1,213,647[59] 18.4 19.6
2008 ~1,240,000[B][55] 14.2 15.4

B From October 2007, Eurotunnel invoices through railfreight by trains rather than tonne.[59]

Eurotunnel's freight subsidiary is Europorte 2.[60] In September 2006 EWS, the UK's largest rail freight operator, announced that owing to cessation of UK-French government subsidies of £52 million per annum to cover the Channel Tunnel "Minimum User Charge" (a subsidy of around £13,000 per train, at a traffic level of 4,000 trains per annum), freight trains would stop running after 30 November.[61]

Economic performance

Shares in Eurotunnel were issued at £3.50 per share on 9 December 1987. By mid-1989 the price had risen to £11.00. Delays and cost overruns led to the share price dropping; during demonstration runs in October 1994 the share price reached an all-time low value. Eurotunnel suspended payment on its debt in September 1995 to avoid bankruptcy.[62] In December 1997 the British and French governments extended Eurotunnel's operating concession by 34 years to 2086. Financial restructuring of Eurotunnel occurred in mid-1998, reducing debt and financial charges. Despite the restructuring The Economist reported in 1998 that to break even Eurotunnel would have to increase fares, traffic and market share for sustainability.[63] A cost benefit analysis of the Channel Tunnel indicated that there were few impacts on the wider economy and few developments associated with the project, and that the British economy would have been better off if the tunnel had not been constructed.[53][64]

Under the terms of the Concession, Eurotunnel was obliged to investigate a cross-Channel road tunnel. In December 1999 road and rail tunnel proposals were presented to the British and French governments, but it was stressed that there was not enough demand for a second tunnel.[65] A three-way treaty between the United Kingdom, France and Belgium governs border controls, with the establishment of control zones wherein the officers of the other nation may exercise limited customs and law enforcement powers. For most purposes these are at either end of the tunnel, with the French border controls on the UK side of the tunnel and vice versa. For certain city-to-city trains, the train itself represents a control zone.[66] A binational emergency plan coordinates UK and French emergency activities.[67]

In 1999 Eurostar posted its first ever net profits, having previously made a loss of £925m in 1995.[19]


A Peugeot 807 entering a shuttle wagon at the French terminal at Coquelles near Calais in northern France

The terminals sites are at Cheriton (Folkestone in the United Kingdom) and Coquelles (Calais in France). The terminals are unique facilities designed to transfer vehicles from the motorway onto trains at a rate of 700 cars and 113 heavy vehicles per hour. The UK site uses the M20 motorway. The terminals are organised with the frontier controls juxtaposed with the entry to the system to allow travellers to go onto the motorway at the destination country immediately after leaving the shuttle. The area of the UK site was severely constrained and the design was challenging. The French layout was achieved more easily. To achieve design output, the shuttles accept cars on double-decks; for flexibility, ramps were placed inside the shuttles to provide access to the top decks.[68] At Folkestone there is 20 kilometres (12 mi) of mainline track and 45 turnouts with eight platforms. At Calais there is 30 kilometres (19 mi) of track with 44 turnouts. At the terminals the shuttle trains traverse a figure eight to reduce uneven wear on the wheels.[47]

Regional impact

A 1996 report from the European Commission predicted that Kent and Nord-Pas de Calais had to face increased traffic volumes due to general growth of cross-Channel traffic and traffic attracted by the tunnel. In Kent, a high-speed rail line to London would transfer traffic from road to rail.[69] Kent's regional development would benefit from the tunnel, but being so close to London restricts the benefits. Gains are in the traditional industries and are largely dependent on the development of Ashford International passenger station, without which Kent would be totally dependent on London's expansion. Nord-Pas-de-Calais enjoys a strong internal symbolic effect of the Tunnel which results in significant gains in manufacturing.[70]

The removal of a bottleneck by means like the Channel Tunnel does not necessarily induce economic gains in all adjacent regions, the image of a region being connected to the European high-speed transport and active political response are more important for regional economic development. Tunnel-induced regional development is small compared to general economic growth.[71] The South East of England is likely to benefit developmentally and socially from faster and cheaper transport to continental Europe, but the benefits are unlikely to be equally distributed throughout the region. The overall environmental impact is almost certainly negative.[72]

Five years after the opening of the tunnel, there were few and small impacts on the wider economy, and it was difficult to identify major developments associated with the tunnel.[73] It has been postulated that the British economy would have actually been better off without the costs from the construction project,[74] both Eurotunnel and Eurostar, companies heavily involved in the Channel Tunnel's construction and operation, have had to resort to large amounts of government aid to deal with debts amounted.[75][76][77] Eurotunnel has been described as being in a serious situation.[78]



There have been three fires in the Channel Tunnel that were significant enough to close the tunnel—all on the heavy goods vehicle (HGV) shuttles—and other more minor incidents.

During an "invitation only" testing phase on 9 December 1994 a fire broke out in a Ford Escort car whilst its owner had been loading it on to the upper deck of a tourist shuttle. The fire started at approximately 10:00 with the shuttle train stationary in the Folkestone terminal and was extinguished around 40 minutes later with no passenger injuries.[79]

On 18 November 1996 a fire broke out on a heavy goods vehicle shuttle wagon in the tunnel but nobody was seriously hurt. The exact cause is unknown,[80] although it was not a Eurotunnel equipment or rolling stock problem; it may have been due to arson of a heavy goods vehicle. It is estimated that the heart of the fire reached 1,000 °C (1,800 °F), with the tunnel severely damaged over 46 metres (151 ft), with some 500 metres (1,640 ft) affected to some extent. Full operation recommenced six months after the fire.[81]

The tunnel was closed for several hours on 21 August 2006, when a truck on an HGV shuttle train caught fire.[82][83] On 11 September 2008 a fire occurred in the Channel Tunnel at 13:57 GMT. The incident started on a freight-carrying vehicle train travelling towards France.[84] The event occurred 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) from the French entrance to the tunnel. No one was killed but several people were taken to hospitals suffering from smoke inhalation, and minor cuts and bruises. The tunnel was closed to all traffic, with the undamaged South Tunnel reopening for limited services two days later.[85] Full service resumed on 9 February 2009[86] after repairs costing €60 million.

Train failures

On the night of 19/20 February 1996, approximately 1,000 passengers became trapped in the Channel Tunnel when two British Rail Class 373 trains on continent-bound Eurostar service broke down owing to electronic failures caused by snow and ice.[87]

On 3 August 2007 an electrical failure lasting six hours caused passengers to be trapped in the tunnel on a Eurotunnelshuttle crossing.[88]

On the evening of 18 December 2009, during the December 2009 European snowfall, five London-bound trains operating Eurostar services failed inside the tunnel, trapping 2,000 passengers in the tunnel overnight. The large number of failed trains meant that both running tunnels were blocked. Five Class 373 trains had departed from Brussels and Paris and encountered cold temperatures in Northern France, the coldest for eight years.[89] A Eurotunnel spokesperson explained that the problem had arisen because of 'fluffy snow' in France,[90] which had evaded the 'winterisation' shields designed to stop snow getting into the electrics.[91] Electrical failure was then caused by the transition from the cold air in France to the warm atmosphere inside the tunnel.[92] Four of the failed trains had been carrying passengers, with the fifth being empty; one train from Brussels had been turned back to Brussels before reaching the tunnel. Two trains were hauled out of the tunnel using diesel-powered Eurotunnel Class 0001. The blocking of the Channel Tunnel led to the implementation of Operation Stack, the transformation of the M20 motorway into a linear car park.[93]

Problems started at around 21:00, with Kent fire brigade being alerted at 21:46.[94] The journeys of those involved took between eleven and sixteen hours.[89] Snow that had built up on the trains then melted in the heat of the tunnel, the water causing electrical faults. Of the five Class 373 trains and two turned back:[94][95][96][97]

  1. 18:59 Brussels–London (9157); towed to London St Pancras by a Eurotunnel diesel locomotive.[94] Delay of 3 hours 49 minutes.[95][96]
  2. 18:43 Paris–London (9053); 700 passengers evacuated via service tunnel to an empty Eurotunnel shuttle train in opposite running tunnel.[94] Passengers taken to Ashford International railway station, for conventional trains to London.[98] Late into London by 12 hours,[95] arriving at 08:00 the next morning.[96]
  3. 19:13 Paris–London (9055); Coupled to adjacent 20:13 Eurostar train behind and dragged out by diesel locomotive, then continued to London.[94] Hauled to Folkestone[95] and picked up passengers from 20:13 Paris service behind it.[96]
  4. 19:37 Disneyland–London (9057); 664 passengers evacuated via service tunnel to an empty Eurotunnel shuttle train in opposite running tunnel[94] and taken via France.[97]
  5. 20:13 Paris–London (9059); Coupled to adjacent 19:13 Eurostar train in front, passengers transferred to the earlier 19:13 train for journey to London[94] or taken via Folkestone and transported in five coaches by road to London.[95][96]
  6. 20:29 Brussels–London (9163), held at Calais[96] then turned back to Brussels before reaching the Channel Tunnel.[95]
  7. 21:13 Paris–London (9063), held at Calais[96] then turned back to Paris before reaching the Channel Tunnel.[95]

The occasion was the first time during the fifteen years that a Eurostar train had to be evacuated inside the tunnel itself; the failing of four at once being described as "unprecedented".[99] The Channel Tunnel reopened at 05:40 CET the following morning.[100]

The following evening, on 19 December 2009, an extra Eurostar service from Paris broke down. The train successfully negotiated the Channel Tunnel itself, then broke down outside. A second train was sent to tow the first to London, but failed at 18:25 while trying to haul it up a steep incline crossing Thurrock Viaduct on the outskirts of London.[89][101][102] Eurostar passenger services restarted on 22 December 2009.[103]

Nirj Deva, Member of the European Parliament for South East England, has called on Eurostar chief executive Richard Brown to resign over the incidents.[104]

A further Class 373 unit on Brussels–London service broke down in the tunnel on 7 January 2010. The train had 236 passengers on board and was towed to Ashford; other trains that had not yet reached the tunnel were turned back.[105][106]

An independent report on the 18/19 December 2009 incidents was issued on 12 February 2010. The report was compiled by Christopher Garnett (former CEO of Great North Eastern Railway) and Claude Gressier (a French transport expert) and made 21 recommendations. [107] [108]

Asylum and immigration

Immigrants and would-be asylum seekers have been known to use the tunnel to attempt to enter Britain. By 1997, the problem had already attracted international press attention, and the French Red Cross opened a refugee centre at Sangatte in 1999, using a warehouse once used for tunnel construction; by 2002 it housed up to 1500 persons at a time, most of them trying to get to the UK.[109] At one point, large numbers came from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, but African and Eastern European countries are also represented.[110]

Most migrants who got into Britain found some way to ride a freight train, but others used Eurostar. Though the facilities were fenced, airtight security was deemed impossible; refugees would even jump from bridges onto moving trains. In several incidents people were injured during the crossing; others tampered with railway equipment, causing delays and requiring repairs.[111] Eurotunnel said it was losing £5m per month because of the problem.[112] A dozen refugees have died in crossing attempts.[109]

In 2001 and 2002, several riots broke out at Sangatte and groups of refugees (up to 550 in a December 2001 incident) stormed the fences and attempted to enter en masse.[113] Immigrants have also arrived as legitimate Eurostar passengers without proper entry papers.[114]

Local authorities in both France and the UK called for the closure of Sangatte, and Eurotunnel twice sought an injunction against the centre.[109] The United Kingdom blamed France for allowing Sangatte to open, and France blamed the UK for its lax asylum rules and the EU for not having a uniform immigration policy.[112] The cause célèbre nature of the problem even included journalists detained as they followed refugees onto railway property.[115]

In 2002, after the European Commission told France that it was in breach of European Union rules on the free transfer of goods, because of the delays and closures as a result of its poor security, a double fence was built at a cost of £5 million, reducing the numbers of refugees detected each week reaching Britain on goods trains from 250 to almost none.[116] Other measures included CCTV cameras and increased police patrols.[117] At the end of 2002, the Sangatte centre was closed after the UK agreed to take some of its refugees.[118]


The service tunnel is used for access to technical equipment in cross-passages and equipment rooms, to provide fresh-air ventilation, and for emergency evacuation. The Service Tunnel Transport System (STTS) allows fast access to all areas of the tunnel. The service vehicles are rubber-tyred with a buried guidance wire system. Twenty-four STTS vehicles were made, and are used mainly for maintenance but also for firefighting and in emergencies. "Pods" with different purposes, up to a payload of 2.5–5 t (2.8–5.5 tons), are inserted into the side of the vehicles. The STTS vehicles cannot turn around within the tunnel, and are driven from either end. The maximum speed is 80 km/h (50 mph) when the steering is locked. A smaller fleet of fifteen Light Service Tunnel Vehicles (LADOGS) were introduced to supplement the STTSs. The LADOGS have a short wheelbase with a 3.4 m (11 ft) turning circle allowing two-point turns within the service tunnel. Steering cannot be locked like the STTS vehicles, and maximum speed is 50 km/h (31 mph). Pods up to 1 tonne can be loaded onto the rear of the vehicles. Drivers in the tunnel sit on the right, and the vehicles drive on the left. Owing to the risk of French personnel driving on their native right side of the road, sensors in the road vehicles alert the driver if the vehicle strays to the right side of the tunnel.[119]

The three tunnels contain 6,000 tonnes (6,600 tons) of air that needs to be conditioned for comfort and safety. Air is supplied from ventilation buildings at Shakespeare Cliff and Sangatte, with each building capable of full duty providing 100% standby capacity. Supplementary ventilation also exists on either side of the tunnel. In the event of a fire, ventilation is used to keep smoke out of the service tunnel and move smoke in one direction in the main tunnel to give passengers clean air. The Channel Tunnel was the first mainline railway tunnel to have special cooling equipment. Heat is generated from traction equipment and drag. The design limit was set at 30 °C (86 °F), using a mechanical cooling system with refrigeration plants on both the English and French sides that run chilled water circulating in pipes within the tunnel.[120]

Trains travelling at high speed create piston-effect pressure changes that can affect passenger comfort, ventilation systems, tunnel doors, fans and the structure of the trains, and drag on the trains.[120] Piston relief ducts of 2-metre (7 ft) diameter were chosen to solve the problem, with 4 ducts per kilometre to give close to optimum results. Unfortunately this design led to unacceptable lateral forces on the trains so a reduction in train speed was required and restrictors were installed in the ducts.[121]

The safety issue of a fire on a passenger-vehicle shuttle garnered much attention, with Eurotunnel itself noting that fire was the risk gathering the most attention in a 1994 Safety Case for three reasons: ferry companies opposed to passengers being allowed to remain with their cars; Home Office statistics indicating that car fires had doubled in ten years; and the long length of the tunnel. Eurotunnel commissioned the UK Fire Research Station to give reports of vehicle fires, as well as liaising with Kent Fire Brigade to gather vehicle fire statistics over one year. Fire tests took place at the French Mines Research Establishment with a mock wagon used to investigate how cars burned.[122] The wagon door systems are designed to withstand fire inside the wagon for 30 minutes, longer than the transit time of 27 minutes. Wagon air conditioning units help to purge dangerous fumes from inside the wagon before travel. Each wagon has a fire detection and extinguishing system, with sensing of ions or ultraviolet radiation, smoke and gases that can trigger halon gas to quench a fire. Since the Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) wagons are not covered, fire sensors are located on the loading wagon and in the tunnel itself. A 10-inch (250 mm) water main in the service tunnel provides water to the main tunnels at 125-metre (410 ft) intervals.[123] The ventilation system can control smoke movement. Special arrival sidings exist to accept a train that is on fire, as the train is not allowed to stop whilst on fire in the tunnel. Eurotunnel has banned a wide range of hazardous goods from travelling in the tunnel. Two STTS vehicles with firefighting pods are on duty at all times, with a maximum delay of 10 minutes before they reach a burning train.[81]

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  • Anderson, Graham; Roskrow, Ben (1994). The Channel Tunnel Story. London: E & F N Spon. ISBN 041919620X. 
  • European Commission. Directorate-General for Regional Policy and Cohesion. (1996). The regional impact of the Channel Tunnel throughout the Community. Luxembourg: European Commission. ISBN 9282688046. 
  • Flyvbjerg, B. Buzelius, N. Rothengatter, W. (2003). Megaprojects and Risk. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521009464. 
  • Institution of Civil Engineers (1989). The Channel Tunnel. London: Thomas Telford. ISBN 0727715461. 
  • Kirkland, Colin J., ed. (1995). Engineering the Channel Tunnel. London: Chapman and Hall. ISBN 0419179208. 
  • Whiteside, Thomas (1962). The Tunnel under the Channel. Rupert Hart-Davis. ISBN 0684832437. 
  • Wilson, Jeremy; Spick, Jerome (1994). Eurotunnel — The Illustrated Journey. HarperCollins. ISBN 0002555395. 

External links

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010
(Redirected to The Channel Tunnel article)

From Wikisource

The Channel Tunnel
by William Gladstone
Information about this edition
The speech given by William Gladstone MP, Leader of the Liberal Party, on a proposal for the construction of Channel Tunnel and its history. Given to the House of Commons on 27 June 1888.

The appeal which has been made to me by the right hon. gentleman the President of the Local Government Board[1] is a very fair appeal. He has a right to know, and I will endeavour to explain to him why, having been at the head of the Government in1884, and having voted against proceeding with the Channel Tunnel Bill, I do not take the same course on the present occasion. The right hon. gentleman has spoken for the Government to which he belongs; and, so far, he is in the same position as was my right hon. friend the Member for West Birmingham[2] when, in 1885, he asked the House to put a negative upon the Bill. But the right hon. gentleman will at once perceive the broad and vital difference between the speech which he has now made in stating the grounds for his proceeding and the speech which was then made by my right hon. friend. The right hon. gentleman has opposed the Channel Tunnel Bill, I am sorry to say, upon its merits - upon grounds which will be as good in any future year as they are at the present moment. My right hon. friend the Member for West Birmingham is not in the House, but I have had within the last week or ten days an opportunity, through his kindness, of going over the whole ground and testing our several recollections, and I believe I am correct in saying that in the speech of my right hon. friend there was not one word condemnatory of the Channel Tunnel upon its merits, and that his opposition was an opposition of time, and of time only.

For my part, I could not have taken then any other position, and I will presently state why it was that I was a party to opposition on that ground. It is a matter of justice to the hon. Member for Hythe[3] and to the promoters of the Channel Tunnel, after what happened in 1884 and 1885 - I believe these were the years, though I am not certain that I am absolutely correct - that I should explain the view which I took of their case, and the reasons which induced me at that period, without any doubt or hesitation, to join in the opposition to the progress of the Bill. I am very glad to think, after the debate of last night, that we are now engaged in a discussion of a very different kind. I do not think that any person who agrees with me will be induced to vote against the Government from any desire to displace it, or that any gentleman who will vote with the Government will do so upon the ground that this is one of the sacrifices required from them to protect the country against the danger of a Liberal invasion of the Benches opposite. On the other hand, I am afraid that our arguments in this matter are looked upon as singularly unsatisfactory by our opponents. On political questions we often feel that, at any rate, there is something in what the other man says; but on this occasion we seem to get at the ultimate principles and modes of thinking which are fixed on one side and fixed on the other, and which would lead us, to describe the opposite arguments in very disrespectful terms. The right hon. gentleman has stated his case with force, clearness and ability; and yet I frankly own - and frankness is, after all, a great virtue - the whole of the considerations he has advanced, and his arguments against this Tunnel are neither better nor worse than mere and sheer bugbears. Having gone thus far in the exercise of frankness, I will for the rest of my speech endeavour to fall back on the virtue of courtesy; and I will not recur to the use of any language of that character, by which I only meant to illustrate the position in which we stand to one another, and which we unhappily aggrivated in 1884.

Now, sir, this subject was first introduced to me by a Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was first introduced to me in the year 1865 by a gentleman whose name will always be mentioned with respect in this House - I mean Mr Ward Hunt. He was not Chancellor of the Exchequer at that exact time, for I was. He came to me as the leader of a deputation, and endeavoured to induce - or perhaps I should say to seduce - me, the Chancellor of the Exchequer to Lord Palmerston, into giving my support to the promotion of this dangerous project. Mr Ward Hunt was totally insensible of the dreadful nature of the petition he was making - notwithstanding his position in the Conservative Party, he was totally unaware of all the dangers that have been pointed out by the right hon. gentleman opposite.

And here, sir, I am obliged to correct a statement of my hon. friend the Member for Hythe, who, on the authority of someone or other, alleged that I alone among the Ministers of that day was disposed to give a guarantee in some shape or other to the promoters of the project. I was never disposed to give a guarantee to the extent of one single farthing to the promoters of this scheme, or any other scheme of a similar kind. I find it necessary, for my own credit, perhaps, at any rate for the truth of history, to disclaim it. Sir, I was instructed on behalf of the Government, and with my own full concurrence, to refuse a guarantee; but we did so without giving the slightest opposition to the Tunnel scheme. A series of other Governments followed, and every one of those governments officially committed itself on the merits of the Tunnel. Lord Granville on the part of the Government of 1868; Lord Derby on the part of the Government of 1874, and, I think, the senior Lord Derby, the distinguished Prime Minister of a former period, expressed precisely similar sentiments; and every one of theose Governments, acting unanimously, was engaged so far in the promotion of this project that they gave it their unequivocal sanction. Nor did they stop there, but they entered upon international proceedings. Communications were established with France. A Commission was appointed on the part of the two countries; and I do not wish to bring home to the minds of hon. and right hon. gentlemen the degree to which our hoour and our dignity in an international aspect are involved in the question before the House. I must say that that is one of the most serious considerations that operate on my mind with regard to the promotion of this Bill. The two governments jointly constituted a commission to consider the details - the important and difficult details - of the schemes by means of which this great project could be best advanced. The principle of the project was taken for granted, on the one side and on the other, when we entered into these general proceedings with the French Government. The Commission laid down conditions which were to be the basis of a Treaty between the two countries, and the actual signature of the Treaty was suspended, not upon the ground of any political apprehension whatever, but simply, I believe, upon the ground that financial considerations did not at that moment favour the progress of the scheme. What dwells upon my mind is this - that there was very much of the character of an engagement of honour in the proceedings between England and France, and that is a matter of some difficulty to justify the recession of a kingdom like this from a position of that kind, after you have voluntarily and deliberately, and after long thought and reflection, made it the subject of such international proceedings.

The right hon. gentleman says - and I have no doubt very truly - that there are serious objections raised by the military authorities against the scheme. Well, Sir, at the time I am speaking of, the opinion of the military authorities was in favour of the Tunnel. The two Governments did not act in respect of the Tunnel without consulting the military authorities, and those military authorities whom the Government had to consult were distinctly favourable to the Tunnel. But I think I may go a little further than that, and may venture to read, at least for the purpose of challenging contradiction if it can be challenged, a short extract from a very well-informed memorandum with which I have been supplied on the part of the promoters - and which is one which can easily be brought to issue. The extract to which I refer says - "It was not until the autumn of 1881 that any military opinion adverse to the Tunnel was expressed." Now, Sir, that is a remarkable fact. The Tunnel was then a scheme twenty years old. It had been discussed in every possible form. It had been the subject of much official correspondence, and it had received the assent of a number of Governmnets. Those Governments would not have assented, and did not assent, without the authority of the Military Department and the advice of their military advisers; and until the year 1881 these portentous discoveries which have taken possession of the mind and imagination of the right hon. gentleman, and, I suppose, of those who sit near him, were never heard of. Surely that is rather a staggering circumstance. And now I will relate the facts upon which the Government of 1881 and the following years had to base itself in dealing with this subject. At that time we find that the military authorities had commenced their opposition, and a great ferment began to prevail. A combination of powers was brrought into operation. The literary authorities were brought to back up the miulitary authorities. Great poets invoked the Muses, and strove, not as great poets in other times used to do, to embolden their countrymen by conjuring up phantoms of danger that were not fit to be presented to anybody except to that valuable class of the community that the right hon. gentleman has described in his speech as suffering occasionally the pains of sea-sickness. Then, Sir, the army - the military host and the literary host - were backed by the opinion of what is called "Society," and society is always ready for the enjoyment of the luxury of a good panic. There is nothing more enjoyable than a good panic, when that panic is based on a latent conviction that the thing which it contemplates is not in the least degree likely to happen. These speculative panics - these panics in the air - have an atteraction for certain classes of minds that is in describable; and these classes of minds, I am bound to say, are very largely to be found among the educated portion of society. The subject of this panic never touched the mind of the nation. These things are not accessible to the mind of the nation. They are accessible to what is called the public opinion of the day - that isto say public opinon manufactured in London by great editors, and clubs, who are at all times formidable, and a great power for the purposes of the moment, but who are a greater power and become an overwhelming power when they are backed by the threefold forces of the military and literary authorities and the social circles of London.

Well, Sir, these powers among them created at that period such panic that even those who were most favourable to the Tunnel, of whom I was one, thought it quite vain to offer a direct opposition. We, therefore, proposed the appointment of a Joint-Committee; and the issue of that Joint-Committee has been very fairly stated by the right hon. gentleman. I am bound to make a fair admission - and I do it in the presence of my noble friend the Member for the Rossendale Division of Lancashire,[4] whose opinion at the time I do not now remember - that, although in the government of 1868, to which he and I belonged, there never was a question as to the propriety of the Tunnel, and Lord Granville wrote in that sense, and even instituted communications with France; yet when we come to the Government of 1880, and the circumstances of 1881, 1882 and 1883, a change of opinion did find its way even into the Cabinet. Some of us were what I should call not quite sound and others of us were, and we all agreed that the best thing we could do was to refer the matter to this impartial tribunal. And when that tribunal reported, there was no improvement in the circumstances. If I am asked why, under these circumstances, I took part in throwing out the Channel Tunnel Bill, my answer is that we, the Government, were engaged in arduous affairs. Powers were put very freely into action against us at that time which are now happily in abeyance. We deemed that it was our duty to have some regard to the time of Parliament. We knew it was impossible to pass the Bill. It was a time of tempest; and as sensible men in time of tempest are not satisfied with the shelter of an umbrella, and seek shelter under the roof of some substantial building, so we acted. Whether or not we ought to have shown more heroism I do not know. But we thought it idle to persevere in a hopeless struggle. We did not in the least condemn the Tunnel on its merits. We did not think there was the slightest chance of proceeding with the Bill to the end, and we therefore invited Parliament not to bestow its time on a discussion which we believed to be perfectly useless. That was the principle on which we proceeded at the time. I will say a little upon the arguments of the right hon. gentleman; but I am not going to attempt to follow those arguments, as if we were engaged in a debate like that of last night. I do not think it would be expedient or convenient to make this a debate between both sides of the House. There are some on this side of the House who are probably unsound beside those who are usually so; and I hope there are some on that side who are sound; and, therefore, the House is totally without prejudice. But there is one thing which fell from the right hon. gentleman which I regret, and that was his comparison between the internal condition of France at the present time and the internal condition of France some six or seven years ago. I own I think it was an error to enter upon the chapter of the subject, even if the right hon. gentleman entertains the opinion which he apparently does entertain. But as he has said that he thinks there is not the same prospect of stability in France now as then, I must give myself the satisfaction so far of expressing quite a different opinion. And I may remind the Government and the House of this - that the French Republic never, since 1870, has been called upon to pass through so severe a crisis as the crisis, not yet, I think, twelve months old, with respect to the appointment of a President. That was the most trying experience which it has had to go through, and it has made many of its friends and well-wishers tremble as to the issue. It made every sound and right-minded man in France apprehensive of what was to happen; and I rejoice to say that France and the institutions of France came through the struggle with as much calm temper and solidity as any country in the world could have done.

That is one thing I feel it right to say in consquence of what fell from the right hon. gentleman. Following the right hon. gentleman opposite, I do not touch on the engineering question. Neither will I touch upon the commercial question, except to say frankly that I differ from the right hon. gentleman, and I believe the commercial advantages of this Tunnel would be enormous. I have nothing whatever to do with engineering or commercial questions. I am here simply as a Member of Parliament to see whether there is any reason why I should withhold my assent to the plan. Now, Sir, I have used the familiar illustration of the umbrella as shelter in a storm. After hearing the speech of the right hon. gentleman I am not quite sure whether the storm is still going on; but I was under the impression that the panic had passed away. My impression has been, and in the main my impression is that the literary alarm and the social alarm, which backed up the military alarm, are very greatly allayed, and that we have now, what we had not five or six years ago, a chance of a fair, temperate and candid discussion. The right hon. gentleman refers to a land frontier as if it were an unmixed evil. No doubt it is less secure, upon the whole, than a sea frontier; but he must not forget that a land frontier has enormous advantages with respect to intercourse between man and man , which are of great consequence in the view of those who believe that peace, and not war, is the natural condition in which we live with foreign countries. But on the question of procuring a land frontier, if it is a land frontier, which I do not think it is, the habitual and standing advantages of a land frontier are enormous compared with its occasional disadvantages and dangers.

With regard to the political and military objections, I must say I feel pained, as an Englishman, in considering the extensive revolution of opinion that has taken place. For twenty years this project lived and flourished, difficult in an engineering sense, very difficult in a technical sense, and as a financial question. I do not presume to enter upon those questions, and I leave them to those who betterunderstand them - but with no doubt cast on it from the point of view of the security of this country. Now, Sir, a transition from darkness to light has taken place - and it ought to be hailed, notwithstanding all the inconveniences which accompany such transactions - and it is rather a serious question for us to consider whether the English nation and Government from 1860 to 1880, or whether the influences which acted during the years 1883-4 and 1885, and which are to some extent acting now, lead us in the right or wrong direction. Speaking of the dangers of a land frontier the right hon. gentleman, in a lugubrious manner, said that this end of the tunnel must always be the subject of great anxiety. Well if this end of the tunnel is to be the subject of geat anxiety, what will the other end be? But, strange to say, I find that the other end of the tunnel is the subject of no anxiety at all. Many of us are in the habit of considering the French nation as light-minded, with great resources and great ingenuity, talents and ingenuity, but still light-minded, unlike ourselves, solid and stable, perhaps rather heavy, but at any rate a very steady-going people, who make up our minds slowly and resolutely, and do not change them. [Laughter] Oh, I am not speaking for myself - I am only speaking on behalf of my country; but I would ask hon. gentlemen to apply this test to the case of the French people. I must say that they have treated this matter with the most dignified self-restraint and consistency throughout. I am bound to give my opinion, and I think the French, had they any other than the most friendly disposition with regard to ourselves, might have made serious complaints of the manner of their treatment in having been invited to embark on this enterprise to an extent only short of the signature of the Treaty when we receded from the ground, and left the light-minded people standing in exactly their original attitude, while we - not the nation, but the Government and the circles of opinion known in London - have very considerably altered. Well, but you will say, the question of our invading France is not a matter to be considered at all. Therefore, the other end of the tunnel does not seriously enter into the question. The real question that we have before us is the likelihood of the coming of that unhappy day - I agree it is a perfectly possible thing, I think and hope it is nothing more than a possible event, still it must be taken into consideration - when England will be invaded by France. I am very much behind the age in a great many respects, and I am sorry to say very much behind the representatives of the age who sit on the opposite side of the House; for I have the habit of being guided to a certain extent in anticipations of the future by considerations of the past. I know that it is a mode of looking at a subject entirely dismissed from consideration at present. For about 800 years, beginning from the Conquest, I want to know which country has oftenest invaded the other, and I will stake this proposition - that the invasions of France by Englanf have been tenfold more than the invasions of the British Islands by France. Do you believe in a total revolution in the means of action between the two countries? I do not believe it. There has, indeed, been a great change in one matter - that of population. Now, Sir, during the Revolutionary wars what happened? The great Napoleon - the most wonderful general and strategist of modern times, the man of whom Dr Döllinger says that he raised war as to the mode of its planning and execution, not as to its morality, almost to the dignity and attitude of a fine art - addressed the whole of his resources and thoughts to the invasion of England. Ireland was tried three times by the Directory, and three times there were miserable failures. Two other fleets had set out, one from Holland and one from Spain, and they had been destroyed by the power of British arme at sea. But Napoleon made a study nightly and daily to devise and arrange the means of invading England, and he was obliged to recede from it as an impossible task. Not that it is an impossible task. Do not suppose that I am going to say anything so extravagent. I am going to say this. It is worthwhile for those who have those portentous ideas of the power of France, and so small an idea of our means of defence, to consider the relative population of the two countries. At the time when Napoleon prosecuted his schemes the population of Great Britain was 10,000,000; the population of France 22,000,000. I will not count the population of Ireland, for at that period, unfortunately, as at others, it added nothing to the military resources of this country for repelling invasion. Well, 10,000,000 Englishmen constituted the sum of those whom Napoleon had to invade, and he could not manage it. At the present moment this island contains far more than 30,000,000 men, not less strong, not less determined, not less energetic than the 10,000,000 in Napoleon's time at the beginning of the century, and they are close in mere numbers upon the population of France.

Here, then, are two countries, and the question is whether one will invade the other by means of the Channel Tunnel. This is a country that has incessantly invaded France, and I am not sorry to say that though we did it with marvellous success 500 years ago, we have not always been equally successful in recent years, though there is the paramount case of 1815, with respect to which, if a parallel case could be quoted on the other side for the action of England and Wellington, I would admit that there would be something more in the argument of the right hon. gentleman than I can allow that it contained as matters stand. I shall be told that Napoleon had no steam. That appears to be a strong argument, but it is capable of being used both ways. I believe that the invention of steam, and the great revolution that we have seen in shipbuilding, have enormously increased our means of defence as compared with those of France. I believe that our defensive power in times of crisis would develop itself with a rapidity, to an extent, and with an efficiency that would surpass all previous examples, and would astonish the world. There is one question that I should like to ask - What is the ground taken up by those gentlemen who point to our security as the main matter which we have to consider? Do they mean, on that ground, to limit our communications with France? Do they mean, as in the time of Queen Anne, to "abate" our trade with France, as being a source of danger and insecurity? "No," says the right hon. gentleman opposite; "anything but it; extend your communications to the uttermost; give every facility by which men and material" - for the word "goods" is synonymous with material - "can pass from one country to the other, but do not sanction the construction of this tunnel." That is the plan of the right hon. gentleman. He proposes that the harbours of the country should be enlarged. He set no limit to the range of his philanthropy and enlightened views upon this matter. He has no apprehension upon this subject. Well, my apprehension of invasion is not great; but, if I am to conjure up any prospect of danger, I tell the right hon. gentleman deliberately that his plan of harbours and great ships, and of making the Channel a high road to be crossed with wonderful rapidity, presents ten times the danger that the danger that the prospects of the tunnel could possibly present to the most excitable mind.

Now, one word about the opinion of the military authorities. I am not going to speak of them with contempt; on the contrary, I must say that I have the deepest respect for the profession of the soldier, and especially for the function of the commander in the field, charged with the care of large bodies of men, with the duty of making the most of the resources of the country, and with the enormously difficult task of bringing all to bear on a particular point, under particular circumstances, and at a particular time, for the purpose of war. That I deem to be one of the highest and most extraordinary trials to which the human mind can be subjected, and I do not know any other position in which the demand for energy and the exercise of every great quality of human force is so tremendous and overwhelming. Therefore in the opinion of Lord Wolseley, whom I believe to be a man extremely valuable to his country in the great and possible sontingency of military danger and military effort, I have the profoundest respect, as I have for the opinion of other military authorities. But that respect is mainly due in relation to the operations of war, or measures directly connected with the operations of war. On other matters not so connected their judgement carries weight, and always will carry weight; but in questions of this character the judgement of military authorities cannot be accepted as infallible, and we find that the prescriptions and recommendations of the military authorities of one day or one year are disavowed and reversed by the military authorities of another time. We were told in 1860 that Lord Palmerston's fortifications would give us such a state of security that we need never be alarmed again; but have we not had within these latter years alarms more poignant, more startling, more costly than, perhaps, were ever reached before in times of peace, and these fortifications are regarded apparently by those who recommended them with the greatest indifference? If I am asked to rely on the opinion of military authorities as infallible, and required to surrender my own poor judgement and responsibility into their hands, I would quote the name of Alderney. If there is a single creation on earth that may be called the creation of military authority it is the work now represented by the remains, the ruins, the shreds and tatters of the fortifications at Alderney. Save that the funds wew supplied from the Treasury, these works were a military creation. I know it is sometimes said that all faults and imperfections in such cases are due to the impertinent interferences of civilians; but what civilian had anything to do with the works at Alderney? I had to do with them in the sense of yielding to the imperative demands of the military authorities of that day, excellent, able, and highly distinguished men they were - Air John Burgoyne, Sir Henry Hardinge, and others who adorn our military annals. They told us that with an expenditure of £150,000 Cherbourg would be sealed up, and no hostile fleet would ever issue from it. I was the man who proposed this expenditure, and the House agreed to it thirty-five years ago. But I need not say that the matter did not stop there; the expenditure went up to £1,500,000 - and I am not sure whether it stopped short of £2,000,000 - and of that there now remain but the miserable fragments of that work, a monument of human folly, useless to us as regards any purpose for which we were urged by military authorities to adopt their plan, but perhaps not absolutely useless to a possible enemy, with whom we may at some period have to deal, and who may possibly be able to extract some profit in the way of shelter and accommodation from the ruins. Then take another and very different example from anotherbranch of the subject - I wish to speak of nothing but of which I have some personal knowledge. Everybody knows that in the crisis of a great war the only and appalling difficulty, if not danger, of this country is the fewness of men, and not the scantiness of any other resources whatever. We were, until the forethought and sagacity of Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell relieved us of the task, in military occupation of the Ionian Islands. Our garrison there used to consist in times of peace of 6000 or 7000 men, and I believe it was admitted that, considered in reference to times of war and in reference to Reserves, such soldiers as we would require to have there would stand to our debit in time of war at not less than 12,000 men. I am not speaking of political considerations; but I do not think any man in this House will say it is desirable to be charged with the responsibility of maintaining 12,000 men in a time of a great war for the purpose of maintaining a hold, even if it were otherwise possible upon Corfu, Cephalonia, Zante, and the other Ionian Isles. But at that time military authorities were unanimous in their belief, and strongly urged upon the Government that the maintenance of our military hold upon the Ionian Islands was a great, if not an essential, element in the maintenance of our power in the Mediterranean. Something, we must admit, is to be allowed for the professional zeal of men who know no bounds to the service they render and the sacrifices they are prepared to make when the country has occasion to call for their services; but much must also be allowed for the fallibility of human judgement when applied to an object they consider it necessary to secure, and these are considerations which in some degree equalise our position, though not absolutely, to the position of the military authorities. It seems ludicrous for a person like myself to give an opinion on the military danger of the Channel Tunnel in the face of the opinion of military authorities; but I cannot get rid of the feeling - and it is simply common sense - that when I endeavour to consider all the points, which I will not now enter upon in detail, I am bound to point out that it is not a safe thing for us to say, "We have military authorities who tell us this thing or that, and we ought to be satisfied," when, of necessity, we have before our eyes many exemplary cases where the predictions and injunctions of military authorities have been totally falsified; and when we know that what is preached by the military authorities of to-day is the direct reversal of what was thought and taught by military authorities twenty or thirty years ago. Under the circumstances, I trust we have arrived at a time of comparative calm, when the matter can be considered without prejudice, which was not possible in 1883. If I may presume to refer to an old and homely proverb, "Philip was then drunk;" but Philip is now, I trust, sober, and it is in the sobriety of Philip that I place all my confidence. I hope, Sir, I am not going beyond Parliamentary etiquette, if I express my hearty congratulations that you, Sir, in the midst of the storm and excitement, were one of the men who affixed a signature to the Minority Report on the subject. I believe even now we have arrived at a happier time, when the gallant enterprise - for I must call it so, arduous and difficult as it is - of my hon. friend the Member for Hythe has some chance of fair judgement. The opinion of the nation was never against it. A fictitious opinion, which is sometimes assumed to be national opinion, was too strong against it at one period, and it was too strong for me, and it even now exists, but weakened and brought within moderate bounds, and there is now some chance for common sense and the excercise of that spirit of enterprise that has been at all times among the noblest characteristics of our country.

1^  Sir Michael Hicks-Beach.

2^  Mr J. Chamberlain.

3^  Sir Edward Watkin.

4^  The Marquis of Hartington.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Proper noun

the Channel Tunnel

  1. The man-made tunnel under the English Channel joining England and France.



  • Danish: Eurotunnelen
  • Dutch: Kanaaltunnel nl(nl)
  • French: le tunnel sous la Manche m.
  • Norwegian: Kanaltunnelen
  • Portuguese: Eurotúnel m.
  • Spanish: Eurotúnel m.
  • Swedish: Kanaltunneln

Simple English

The Channel Tunnel (or Chunnel) (French: le tunnel sous la Manche) is a tunnel between England and France under the English Channel . It is only for trains. Some of the trains in the Channel Tunnel carry automobiles as well. It is 50 km (31 miles) long and connecting Cheriton, Kent in the United Kingdom to Coquelles near Calais in northern France.

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