The UK has been involved in many historic feats of engineering, but out of the numerous UK-based engineering projects, the Channel Tunnel must surely be one of the most remarkable. Given that the Tunnel celebrated its 20th birthday just this year, we thought that it was high time to take a look at this landmark engineering feat, and see just why it really is so special.

The History

Proposals to build a tunnel underneath the English Channel were actually first raised in the early 19th century, and throughout the next century and beyond the idea was discussed by numerous figures without ever being realised. Following a collaboration between Margaret Thatcher and François Mitterrand in 1981, the wheels were finally set in motion for the construction of a railway-link between Britain and France, and the tunnelling began in earnest during 1988.

Eleven boring machines were used to carve out the Channel Tunnel, with work from both the French and the British sides of the project being carried out simultaneously. The Tunnel cost the equivalent of £12 billion to build, measured in at 31.4 miles long, took six years to complete and provided work for a staggering 13,000 plus people, but was also expensive in other ways, as ten workers (including 8 British people) were sadly killed during the construction. Opened by the Queen and François Mitterrand in 1994, it has remained in consistent use, with 20.4 million passengers using it in 2013.

The Facts

As you might expect, the results of this colossal undertaking were impressive, and today the Channel Tunnel is recognised by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Modern World’. Here are some facts and figures about this landmark feat of British (and French!) engineering:

  • The Channel Tunnel has the longest submerged section of any tunnel in the world, and it descends to 75 metres below sea level in places.
  • The shuttle trains that serve in the Channel Tunnel are more than 700 metres long.
  • Although the Tunnel was a joint effort by the British and the French, the British teams tunnelled the greater distance.
  • One of the British boring machines still remains buried under the Tunnel to this day; another was sold on eBay in 2004 for almost £40,000!
  • Counting the small service tunnel, a trio of tunnels actually make up the ‘Channel Tunnel’.
  • Traversing the Tunnel takes around 35 minutes, and, on average, more British passengers make use of it than anyone else.

The Channel Tunnel is undoubtedly one of the greatest British engineering projects of all time, but there are also many more standout innovations too, so stay tuned to our blog to find out more in the future. Of course, high quality British engineering is still going on today, including right here at Airedale Springs, where products like our tension springs receive universal acclaim. They may not be as glamorous as an underwater tunnel, but they are invaluable, so feel free to contact us now by calling 01535 643456 or emailing to find out more.