Twenty years ago in 1994, the Queen and President Francois Mitterrand or France, cut the inaugural ribbon of the Channel Tunnel, which made a hundred year dream of linking France and Britain under the sea a reality.
In order to complete the tunnel, there were 12,000 engineers, technicians and workers involved to create the world’s longest underwater tunnel which was 24 miles from the north of France to the south of England, earning it the prestigious “Global Engineering of the Century Award” by the International Federation of Consulting Engineers.
The idea to end Britain’s isolation as an island and dig a tunnel to France emerged as early as the 18th century. A project was first launched in the 1970’s, but was soon abandoned.
But in January 1986, President Mitterrand and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher officially signed an agreement to start the construction of the tunnel.
Lady Thatcher faced enormous opposition to the project within her own party, the Conservatives, but she managed to push it through and famously insisted that “not a public penny” would be used.
Construction lasted for six years and cost approximately 15 billion euros.
The tunnel finally opened twenty years ago in 1994 and, six months later, the first Eurostar passenger train travelled through. After initial disappointing traffic, the number of people using the tunnel increasingly grew and around 330 million passengers have made the trip since the inauguration in 1994.
The tunnel, which carries passengers and freight traffic has now become a formidable competitor to maritime ferry services and airlines for people traveling on the Paris to London route.