• How the Channel Tunnel was Built

  • The Channel Tunnel is one of the biggest engineering projects ever undertaken in the UK. Taking more than five years to complete, with more than 13,000 workers from England and France collaborating to realise the vision, the tunnel has been named one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

    Today, as thousands of passengers take the Eurotunnel le Shuttle under the Channel every year, it can be easy to take for granted this extraordinary and unique man-made feat.

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    1802 Ideas for a tunnel connecting England and France have been in existence since at least 1802, when French engineer Albert Mathieu proposed an underground highwayfor horse-drawn carriages, with an island in the middle for changing your steed.
    1856 The first serious railway connection proposal came in 1856, again from the French, when surveyor Aimé Thomé de Gamond suggested to Emperor Napoleon III that a tunnel could be mined out, but the scheme was not taken any further.
    1980's It wasn't until the 1980s that a coalition of French and British leaders invited private companies to put forward plans for an international link. Ideas mooted included a 4.5km suspension bridge, holding a road encased in a tube, a drive-through tunnel and, of course, today's high-speed rail link.
    1988 Once a decision was made construction was able to begin in 1988, with the tunnel being dug simultaneously from France and Britain. It was at the time the most expensive construction project ever proposed and the cost finally came in at £9 billion.
      Giant boring machines were used to shift tonnes of rock and soil every day. Some of the machines were built especially for the job, with a combination of extremely high pressure water jets and rotating disc cutters used to burrow through the land beneath the Channel. The spoil from tunnelling was used to create a 73 acre hoe on Britain's coast, on the French side their spoil was piled up into a new hill. 
    1990 On December 1 1990 a Frenchman and an Englishman shook hands in front of the World's media, through a hole connecting the two tunnel ends.
    1994 The completed project was opened by Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterrand on May 6 1994.
  • Eurotunnel Le Shuttle Super Structures Episode