It had begun construction in 1986 and cost billions of pounds to build however on 6th may 1994, Her Majesty The Queen and French President, Francois Mitterrand offically opened the Channel Tunnel. This was the first land link between Britain and Europe since the last Ice Age around 8,000 years ago.
The Queen described the tunnel as one of the world’s great technological achievements. Her Majesty took the high speed Eurostar passenger train and arrived at Calais at the same time as President Mitterand’s train from Paris’ Gard du Nord via Lille. The two trains met nose to nose after a computer that prevents two trains from travelling on the same track was disabled for the occasion.
The two Heads of State were accompanied by their Prime Ministers John Major and Edouard Balladur and proceeded to cut ribbons of red, white and blue simultaneously to the national anthems of the United Kingdom and France.
The Channel Tunnel is 31 miles long of which 23 miles is under water and has an average depth under the seabed of 150ft. The journey time from London to Paris is around three hours while the journey from London to Brussels is around three hours fifteen minutes.
In its first year, the Channel Tunnel looked as though it would become a financial disaster. A year after the opening the tunnel operator, Eurotunnel, announced a £925 million loss and in 1996 freight traffic was suspended for six months after a fire broke out on a lorry in the tunnel.
Before travelling to Calais, Her Majesty The Queen had officially opened Waterloo International. According to Prime Minister John Major, the ‘Chunnel’ was “a potent symbol of Britain’s new role in Europe. We share with France an enormous pride in the achievement and skills of those who have designed and constructed one of the greatest engineering projects of the century.”
In 2020, the Channel Tunnel is celebrating its 26th anniversary.