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What is the Channel Tunnel?

The Channel Tunnel (sometimes called the 'Chunnel') is an undersea tunnel linking southern England and northern France. It is operated by the company Eurotunnel, who also run a railway shuttle (Le Shuttle) between Folkestone and Calais, carrying passengers in cars, vans and other vehicles.

Eurostar is a totally separate company and is Eurotunnel's biggest customer, running high-speed passenger services through the Channel Tunnel between London and a number of cities on the continent, including Paris, Brussels, Lille, Lyon, Avignon and Marseille.

The Channel Tunnel is actually comprised of three tunnels: two rail tunnels, used for freight and passenger trains, and a service tunnel.

How long is the Channel Tunnel?

The Channel Tunnel is 31.5 miles long or 50.45 km. That's the equivalent of 169 Eiffel Towers stacked on top of each other.

23.5 miles (37.9 km) of the Channel Tunnel is under the English Channel, making it the world's longest undersea tunnel.

What year did the Channel Tunnel open?

The idea of a tunnel under the Channel was first proposed in 1802 but construction wasn't started until 1988. It was completed in 1993, and Eurostar services started in November 1994.

Where is the Channel Tunnel?

The Channel Tunnel runs between Calais in northern France and Folkestone in south Kent. Vehicle traffic for Le Shuttle gets on in Calais and gets off in  Folkestone. Calais is about three hour's drive from Paris and Folkestone is about an hour and a half's drive from London.

Eurostar trains, which are passenger only, leave from St Pancras International station in London (some services also take on passengers in Ebbsfleet and Ashford in Kent) and go directly to the centre of Paris, Brussels and the other Eurostar destinations in Europe.

How deep is the Channel Tunnel?

At its deepest, the tunnel is 75 metres (246 feet) below the sea level. That's the same as 107 baguettes balancing on top of each other.

How was the Channel Tunnel built?

The Channel Tunnel is made of three separate tunnels running parallel to each other. One train tunnel running south (UK to France), one train tunnel running north (France to UK) and one service tunnel. All three tunnels were drilled below the sea bed, and link Coquelles in Pas-de-Calais to Folkestone in Kent.

Who can travel through the Channel Tunnel?

Foot passengers can travel with Eurostar, between our UK stations (London St Pancras International, Ebbsfleet International in north Kent, or Ashford International in south Kent) and our stations on the continent . People who want to travel with their own vehicle or on a coach can use the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle between Folkestone and Calais. Before travelling with either Eurostar or Eurotunnel you will need to go through security, border and ticket checks before going through the Tunnel.

How much did it cost to build the Channel Tunnel?

It took just under six years and 13,000 workers to build the Channel Tunnel. The total cost came at an eye-watering £4.65 billion which would be the equivalent of £12 billion in today's money.

Why travel with Eurostar rather than drive?

  • Avoid the stress of driving, with direct high-speed journeys to top destinations, from city centre to city centre.
  • Great value fares with no additional costs like fuel, road tolls and parking.
  • Simple connections with other rail services in Europe, allowing you to go beyond our direct destinations on a single booking.
  • Travel in style on our comfortable trains, including our new, state-of-the art trains with onboard entertainment and wi-fi.

How fast does the Eurostar go?

The Eurostar travels through the Channel Tunnel at a speed of 100 miles per hour (160kph) although when the train is outside the tunnel it reaches speed of 186 miles per hour (300 kph)

5 crazy ways to cross the Channel

    • 1. Swimming

      On 25 August 1874, Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to swim across the Channel from England to France.

      He first attempted the crossing on 12 August 1874, but had to give up due to strong winds and rough seas.

      Undeterred, he tried for a second time 12 days later.

    • 2. In a wingsuit

      On 31 July 2003, Felix Baumgartner jumped from a plane 30,000 feet (9100 meters) above Dover wearing a carbon wing and flew for 22 miles (35.5 km) at a top speed of 220 mph (350 km)

      Six minutes later he landed in France and became the first man to cross the channel in a wing suit.

    • 3. By bathtub

      On 17 May 2007, the comedian Tim Fitz Higham became the first man to row across the Channel in... a bathtub. Tim first attempted this incredible challenge in 2004 but was forced to abandon when he was caught in a storm with force 6 winds.

      Before attempting the crossing, Tim had to learn to row and trained with the Britain's Olympic rowing team.

    • 4. By waterski

      On 12 March 2010, The One Show presenter Christine Bleakley water-skied across the English Channel and completed the 21-mile (34 km) stretch in just 100 minutes.

      Despite being terrified by water and admitting she wasn't a strong swimmer She became the first person to water-ski across the world's busiest shipping lane.

    • 5. By balloon

      On 28 May 2010, Jonathan Trappe crossed the Channel strapped to 54 industrial strength helium balloons.
      Jonathan started his incredible journey from a field, near Ashford, and became the first cluster-balloonist to cross the English Channel.

Image credits: © Shutterstock; © Shutterstock