PROJECT: Eurotunnel

The Eurotunnel, widely recognised as one of the world’s greatest civil engineering projects, connects Britain with France under the English Channel. It is situated 75m under the Dover Channel and at 50,5 km long, it connects both countries within a travel time of 35 minutes. It consists of three tunnels;  two are used for transport and  the smaller one is used as a service and rescue tunnel. 


  • The idea for a cross-channel tunnel first arose more than 200 years ago but did not materialise due to national security and cost considerations.
  • 1803: The first known drawing of a channeltunnel by an English man, Henri Mottray.
  • 1851: A French man, Hector Moreau, introduced the first idea of an iron undersea tunnel which caught the attention of Napoleon III. Later he added a railwaysystem to the tunnel idea which was to be buried 75m under the seabed.
  • The channel was an ideal natural protector between the two countries during in WWI and WWII.
  • With the decision of building this permanent connection undersea, construction work and financial viability would be pushed to the limits for both countries. 
  • England and France wanted to overcome the economical barrier that had been created through high shipping costs and remove the physical barrier between England and France and in particular, Europe. 
  • Enhance the travel time and improve the two economies through growing tourism and the transportation of goods.
  • Create a reliable connection which is not dependent on weather conditions.
  • Use the tunnel to improve the telephone network in the United Kingdom.
  • Create an alternative competitive link which is providing both speed and reliability to freight deliveries.
  • The short distance between Calais (FR.) and Dover(EN) made the project realistic.
  • The thick and stabile lime layers in the ground named marly chalk and limestone, was found to be the best tunneling material. It is impermeable due to its high clay content and provide short term stability.
  • The access to leading technology in tunnel construction helped to finish the project.


  • The French and English government insulated themselves from any financial risk and involvement by the way of tender to a third party. 
  • This build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) project gives the third party, Eurotunnel, the award of a 55 years operating concession to repay the banks and shareholders which can extend first to 65 and later to 99 years.
  • The Goverments were represented by the Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC)which made the final engineering and safety decisions.
  • Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM) were specifically designed for work at the Eurotunnel, drilling through the marly chalk.
  • Tolls were enforced on the tunnel to repay the loans of the project


  • 1985: Both countries agreed to restart the projects and a tender for a tunnel project.
  • 20 January 1986: The design for the tunnel was created.
  • 28 September 1988: Construction work begins.
  • 1 June 1994: The first train travelled through the tunnel.
  • 18 November 1996: A fire accident in the tunnel created negative headlines worldwide.
  • The project costs were twice as much as originally envisaged due to overruns and a fire accident. People’s behaviour to travel by ship and plane had also not changed as much as expected.
  • Initially, there was not enough money to build a high speed railway from London to Flokstone so timesaving for users was less than expected.
  • The Eurotunnel became the world’s greatest civil engineering project. 
  • The tunnel has had a huge impact on the travelling time between the two countries, decreasing considerably to 35 minutes by train.

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Project info




1988 FR/1987 EN - 1994


Connecting England in its current state which is an island with the rest of Europe thus eliminating the economical barrer and the Dover channel




Channel Tunnel Group Ltd/ France Manche S.A., French government and UK government