Folkestone Eurotunnel History
The first plans to establish a fixed link between Great Britain and the continent were made by the Frenchman Nicholas Desmeret as early as 1751. In 1802 Albert Mathieu, one of Napoleon's engineers, drew up plans. The first British plans are attributed to Sir John Hawkshaw, who envisaged a tunnel about 1870 and later established the Channel Tunnel Company. A further 25 reports followed but all were abandoned for financial or military reasons. The first excavations on two separate railroad tunnels between the Shakespeare Cliff west of Dover and Sangatte west of Calais were started in 1880 but work was halted on grounds of national security. All subsequent suggested routes centered on the already established route. In 1970 a tunnel project which was to be up to 90 per cent state funded was abandoned in the mid-1970s owing to the economic recession.
In September 1981 an Anglo-French project group was set up, until 1985 the assessment of the various suggested links involving tunnels and bridges followed, at the beginning of 1986 both governments decided on the Eurotunnel project and the franchise was signed in Paris in 1987. At the end of 1990 breakthrough in the service tunnel was completed, followed in 1991 by the main tunnel. In 1992 a border stone was located in the middle of the tunnel to mark the common border between the two countries.
"Eurotunnel" acting as the Anglo-French holding company of the Channel Tunnel Group Ltd. and France-Manche SA is the client and operating authority of the Channel Tunnel, which has no state funding. Its monopoly on the franchise for the "fixed link" expires in 2042. As well as the rail link Eurotunnel has the rights to construct a further tunnel for road traffic ("drive through" scheme) until 2020. Should this project not have been realized by that date the governments can award the contract to other companies.
The construction of the tunnel has had both international and regional economic consequences. Alongside improved communication links between Great Britain and the European Market changes in regional employment (transfer of jobs from the ferry traffic to the tunnel, additional jobs created through the extensive expansion of the infrastructure) are anticipated as are repercussions for the structure and extent of tourism and the economic knock-on effects at a national level of an efficient transport system. In view of the growing passenger traffic between the island and the continent, which doubled over the last decade (1991: 27 million sea passengers, 12 million of whom traveled on the shortest route between Dover and Calais), and according to the most recent forecasts the ferry companies should be able to retain a profitable share of the market in the future despite the new competition from the tunnel operators. Whilst the ferry companies have already reacted with shorter boarding times, new ships and simpler tariffs, emphasizing the sea journey as an experience in itself, the main argument for a tunnel crossing is the time advantage and also the independence from the uncertain weather conditions. Following connection to the European high-speed rail network (planned for 1998) journey times to the big cities of continental Europe will be considerably reduced; it is calculated that the journey from London to Paris, for example, will be less than three hours and London to Frankfurt less than five hours, an attractive alternative to air travel.
The 31mi/50km-long channel tunnel consists of two parallel tunnels each with a diameter of 25ft/7.6m. Between the two single-track tunnels each carrying a one-way shuttle train is a service tunnel with a diameter of 16ft/4.4m which is connected to the main tunnels at a distance of 1,230ft/375m. The three separate tunnels which are made from 720,000 prefabricated reinforced concrete segments are set in clayey, impermeable limestone marl between 131ft/40m and 246ft/75m below the sea bed, the deepest point at 377ft/115m below sea level is 8mi/13km from the coast.
The shuttle service carries passengers and vehicles 24 hours a day, goods traffic is handled separately. Whereas buses and lorries are only transported on one level the carriages for the remaining vehicles are equipped with two loading levels. The trains operate every 15 to 20 minutes during the day, every 30 to 60 minutes at night; the actual journey time should be 35 minutes. The boarding times can be kept to a minimum because the British immigration controls will take place in France and vice versa so that the total time spent in the Eurotunnel system from departure to driving up to the road is estimated at about 80 minutes. Fares should not be much higher than the channel ferries.
On the ferries the crossing itself compares at 75 minutes with the whole process taking 2.5 to 3 hours. Whereas tunnel users can stretch their legs in the carriage, on the ferry passengers can wander around the deck, shop and have a meal.