Although the Channel Tunnel was a 20th century venture, the idea to link Great Britain with France was one that had been around for 192 years before it was actually built. In the early 1800s engineers proposed an under-sea tunnel, but fears over breaches of national security thwarted the plans and nothing was attempted until 1988 when construction on the Channel Tunnel, or ‘Eurostar’ began.
It took six years to build the tunnel and the opening ceremony in 1994 involved French president Mitterrand and the English Queen taking channel tunnel trains from their countries which touched nose to nose in the center, to symbolise the new connection between both nations.
Today the channel tunnel, commercially known as ‘Eurostar’, now runs services from London to Calais, via the tunnel itself and also via the Channel Tunnel Rail Link at St. Pancras station. At its deepest, the channel tunnel dips to 250 feet below sea level and services do not just include train services for passengers, but freight trains and services for vehicles too. Customers can park their vehicles on the ‘Eurotunnel Shuttle’ train where they are free to either stay inside their vehicles, or walk around the carriage.
The Channel Tunnel itself runs through the English Channel from Folkestone near Dover, England to Coquelles in Pas-de-Calais, France, although in England there is the Channel Tunnel Rail link which extends from Folkestone back to London St. Pancras. Neither Folkestone nor Coquelles are notorious tourist spots, but it’s incredibly easy to travel from these final Eurostar destinations to more ‘built up’ areas of interest, such as the French capital of Paris, where L’arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower can be found, or London where many people like to visit Buckingham Palace, Westminster and Big Ben.
Even though this 50km under-sea tunnel has only been around since 1988, the structure has some intriguing and surprising stories attributed to it. To start with, the original cost estimation was 80% less than the final construction costs, which reached £4650 million, although the final cost of the entire project has been said to be approximated £10 billion. With a workforce of 15000, construction spanned seven years and met in the middle of the two countries when complete. There was a fire in the channel tunnel in Winter 1996, although normal service resumed just three days after it happened and nobody was injured.
How to Get There:
Within the UK it’s easy to get to the channel tunnel via the Channel Tunnel Rail Link in London St. Pancras station, as all main towns and cities have services to there. If you are driving to the channel tunnel in the UK then exit the M20 motorway at junction 11A. If you’re coming from the other side in France then leave the A16 motorway at junction 42. From there you can find somewhere to park by the checking in booths, or board the Euro Shuttle inside your vehicle to drive to specific destinations in on the other side.
Where to Stay:
Coquelle in France has been mainly built up around the fact the Channel Tunnel entrance is there. As a result there are restaurants, supermarkets and most importantly a range of hotels from budget to luxury, including Etap and Ibis. In Folkestone passengers on the Channel Tunnel might like to stay in the Salisbury hotel which actually overlooks the English Channel, or the Burlington three star hotel and The Carlton hotel which are both also very nearby. Rather than staying at a hotel in these areas many Eurostar passengers prefer to take another short train journey on to London, Lille or Paris.
From either end of the channel tunnel it’s easy to catch connecting trains or buses to more built up areas. The Channel Tunnel Rail Link takes you right to central London, where you can travel onto smaller regions, or sightsee. Residents of France or the UK can take their vehicle onto the Euro Shuttle where they join the motorway and navigate to their final destination that way.