This week sees the 20th anniversary of the opening on one of the modern wonders of the world, the Channel Tunnel. A civil Engineering project involving two countries who over the past thousand years or so haven’t always been the best of friends but who eventually came together to start the project in 1988 when construction began with over 13,000 workers involved on both sides of The English Channel.

Various plans to connect the two countries have been proposed for over two hundred years, one of which had a tunnel with horse drawn carriages and a man-made island in the middle of the channel to allow for time to change the horses. However none of these came to fruition and it wasn’t until the 20th Century that it was constructed using a total of eleven specially built boring machines, each of which weighed over 1,100 tonnes. Imagine the amount of workwear and the number of hi-vis vests that were worn during the six years it took to complete the project, wish we had got the order for that, although that is unfortunately not one of the facts and figures that is available.

Digging from each side the two teams finally met up on the 1st December 1990, with the two tunnels being out of alignment by a mere 9mm. So for the first time since the end of the last Ice Age it was technically possibly to walk to France without getting your feet wet. However, even with vastly improved tunneling techniques and modern safety measure ten workers were killed during its construction. A memorial for them can be seen at Samphire Hoe which was built from the spoil taken from the tunnel and placed below Shakespeare’s Cliff outside Dover, now an award winning nature reserve.

It remains a great achievement that finally hit profit for the first time in 2012 and still holds the world record for the longest undersea tunnel in the world, even though it is actually three tunnels. And here are some more amazing facts to impress your workmates:


  1. The spoil taken from the tunnel would fill Wembley Tunnel 13 times.
  2. Its total length is 31.4 miles (50.5km
  3. 250ft was tunneled each day
  4. One of the English boring machines remains buried in the tunnel.
  5. If every vehicle that has travelled on the Eurotunnel so far was parked nose to tail it would now reach the Moon, a distance of 238,857 miles (384,403kms)