How The Channel Tunnel between England and France is a landmark for UK construction
In 1802, the first plans were drawn up for a tunnel that would connect Britain and France – it would be lit by oil lamps and horse drawn carts would be used to ferry passengers from one country to another. From that moment until the official opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1994, there were many evolutions of those original designs, many obstacles that had to be overcome and a great deal of innovation invested in. The result is a landmark in UK construction that still stands out as iconic to this day.
The Channel Tunnel in numbers
The statistics surrounding the Channel Tunnel and its construction show just how much of a momentous moment it was in UK construction when this project got under way.
- 80 million – the number of vehicles that have travelled through the Channel Tunnel since it was first opened in 1994.
- EURO138 billion – the value of goods traded between the UK and Europe which travel through the Channel Tunnel every year.
- 9 million cubic metres – the amount of shale, marl and chalk that was evacuated during the construction of the Channel Tunnel.
- 1 million – the volume of e-commerce express delivery parcels that are shipped via the Channel Tunnel every day.
- 2 million – since pets were allowed to cross using the Channel Tunnel in 2000 this represents the number of dogs and cats who have travelled between France and the UK in this way.
- £12 billion – the estimated cost of the project in today’s figures (£4.65 billion at the time).
Why the Channel Tunnel is such a landmark construction
The Channel Tunnel is the longest undersea tunnel in the world and is globally famous for its sheer scale and size. It has been named as one of the Wonders of the Modern World, alongside the Empire State Building and the Panama Canal, making it the modern day version of the Colossus of Rhodes of the Great Pyramids of Giza. It represents one of the largest engineering projects ever to have been undertaken in the UK and also one of the most successful. To provide some idea of just how much work was involved – the amount of earth that was removed by boring machines to create the Channel Tunnel could fill Wembley Stadium seven times over. 13,000 workers were involved in bringing this vision to reality and, despite its record-breaking size, the tunnel took just five years to complete.
Of course there were plenty of challenges involved in constructing the Channel Tunnel and many of these were very publicly discussed. A flexible and adaptable approach gave the project the resources to overcome many of these challenges, including those relating to the environment that would be disrupted by the construction. For example, specialist transporters were brought on board to help relocate animals and wildlife that might be unsettled by the construction.
The Channel Tunnel remains not just one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World but also an efficient and popular way to travel between the UK and France. It has fulfilled original vision in every sense of the brief.
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