Channel Tunnel

The Channel Tunnel (French: Le tunnel sous la Manche), also referred to as the Eurotunnel is a 50.45-kilometre (31.35 mi) railway tunnel that connects Folkestone (Kent, England, UK) with Coquelles (Hauts-de-France, France) beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover. It is the only fixed link between the island of Great Britain and the European mainland. At its lowest point, it is 75 m (250 ft) deep below the sea bed and 115 m (380 ft) below sea level.[3][4][5] At 37.9 kilometres (23.5 mi), the tunnel has the longest underwater section of any tunnel in the world, and is the third longest railway tunnel in the world. The speed limit for trains through the tunnel is 160 km/h (100 mph).[6] The Channel Tunnel is owned and operated by Getlink.

Channel Tunnel
LocationEnglish Channel (Strait of Dover)
Coordinates51.0125°N 1.5041°E / 51.0125; 1.5041
StartFolkestone, Kent, England,
United Kingdom
(51.0971°N 1.1558°E / 51.0971; 1.1558 (Folkestone Portal))
EndCoquelles, Pas-de-Calais, Hauts-de-France, France
(50.9228°N 1.7804°E / 50.9228; 1.7804 (Coquelles Portal))
  • 6 May 1994 (1994-05-06) (tunnel)
  • 1 June 1994 (freight)
  • 14 November 1994 (passenger service)
CharacterThrough-rail passenger and freight. Vehicle shuttle.
Line length50.45 km (31.35 mi)
No. of tracks2 single track tunnels
1 service tunnel
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) (standard gauge)
Electrified25 kV AC overhead lines, 5.87 m[1]
Operating speed160 km/h (100 mph) (track safety restrictions)
200 kilometres per hour (120 mph) (possible by track geometry, not yet allowed)[2]
Channel Tunnel / Eurotunnel
Dollands Moor Level Crossing
DC┇AC changeover
Balancing Ponds Viaduct (
120 m
131 yd
Grange Alders Viaduct (
526 m
575 yd
Dover Line Viaduct (
116 m
127 yd
M20 motorway Viaduct (
309 m
338 yd
-1.659 km
-1.031 mi
Cheriton Cut-and-Cover Tunnel (
1010 m
1105 yd
Folkestone Shuttle Terminal
-4.436 km
-2.756 mi
Folkestone Shuttle Sidings
Cheriton Junction
Service Road
Castle Hill Tunnel Portal
0 km
0 mi
UK Crossovers
0.478 km
0.297 mi
Holywell Cut-and-Cover Tunnel
0.882 km
0.548 mi
Shakespeare Cliff Shaft
(Adits A1 & A2)
UK Undersea Crossover
17.062 km
10.602 mi
United Kingdom
26.988 km
16.77 mi
French Undersea Crossover
34.688 km
21.554 mi
Sangatte Shaft
Beussingues Tunnel Portal
50.459 km
31.354 mi
Beussingues Trench
French Crossover
Service Road
Fréthun Freight Yard
Coquelles Eurotunnel Depot
Calais Shuttle Terminal
57.795 km
35.912 mi
Distances from Castle Hill Tunnel Portal
Distances to terminals measured around terminal loops

The tunnel carries high-speed Eurostar passenger trains, the Eurotunnel Shuttle for road vehicles[7] and international freight trains.[8] The tunnel connects end-to-end with the high-speed railway lines of the LGV Nord in France and High Speed 1 in England. In 2017, through rail services carried 10.3 million passengers and 1.22 million tonnes of freight, and the Shuttle carried 10.4 million passengers, 2.6 million cars, 51,000 coaches, and 1.6 million lorries (equivalent to 21.3 million tonnes of freight).[9] This compares with 11.7 million passengers, 2.6 million lorries and 2.2 million cars by sea through the Port of Dover.[10]

Plans to build a cross-Channel fixed link appeared as early as 1802,[11][12] but British political and media pressure over the compromising of national security had disrupted attempts to build a tunnel.[13] An early unsuccessful attempt at building a tunnel was made in the late 19th century, on the English side, "in the hope of forcing the hand of the English Government".[14] The eventual successful project, organised by Eurotunnel, began construction in 1988 and opened in 1994. Valued at £5.5 billion in 1985,[15] it was at the time the most expensive construction project ever proposed. The cost finally amounted to £9 billion (equivalent to £16 billion in 2019), well over its predicted budget.[16][17]

Since its construction, the tunnel has experienced a few mechanical problems. Both fires and cold weather have temporarily disrupted its operation.[18][19]

Since at least 1997, people have attempted to use the tunnel to travel illegally to the UK, causing many migrants to head towards Calais and creating ongoing issues of human rights violations, illegal immigration, diplomatic disagreement, and violence.[20][21][22]