Welcome to the first of a series of blogs featuring some feats of British civil engineering that we find to be particularly impressive.

Great Feats of British Engineering – The Channel Tunnel

The first of our blogs covering great British engineering projects actually concerns a construction effort that was a collaboration between British and French engineers, plus many more technicians and civil engineering experts from around the world.

‘Le Tunnel Sous la Manche’, you may know it better as the Channel Tunnel, is a fantastic feat of civil engineering. Whilst it may not be the longest tunnel in the world (it’s the 11th longest), it’s 31.4 mile length is certainly impressive, plus it takes the crown for being longest undersea tunnel, as over 23 miles of the tunnel are submerged.

A staggering combined effort from British, French and international engineers from across the world, the Tunnel was quite the technical endeavour. The six year project began in 1988 and required the use of eleven specially constructed tunnel boring machines to accomplish the mammoth task of digging the tunnels. You’ll notice that we used the plural ‘tunnels’ there as what is collectively known as the ‘Channel Tunnel’ is actually comprised of three tunnels, two carrying trains and a smaller service tunnel that runs between the two primary rail tunnels for use in emergencies and for maintenance work.

Although the construction only took six years to complete, the project relied upon a great deal of research and engineering work including surveying that occurred twenty years before construction, determining that the stratum beneath the Channel was suitable for tunnelling.

Officially opened to the public in late 1994, the Tunnel is heavily used for the transportation of passengers and freight every day. Despite the cost of the project greatly exceeding initial estimates, the tunnel was deemed to be extremely successful and since it was opened it is estimated that it has carried over 300 million passengers and 290 million tonnes of freight.

There are plenty of interesting facts and figures regarding the tunnel and its mammoth construction effort to be found at the Euro Tunnel website.

Stay tuned to the Airedale Springs blog for more informative posts regarding impressive British civil engineering projects in the near future.

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