30 Oct: Building The Chunnel

On 30 October, 1990, with little fanfare and without any cameras present, the first connection was made between the French half and the British half of the Channel Tunnel, when a two-inch metal probe broke through to link Great Britain with the European mainland for the first time in more than 8,000 years. 

In the words of the British team, the hole was just big enough to give them “a whiff of garlic”. Final construction took another four more years, with the “Chunnel” officially opening for passenger service in May, 1994.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why not all Brits were enthusiastic about the project; describe the gifts the British and French sides presented one another with when the connection was made; and discuss why the original scheme to link the two countries included an artificial island in the middle where you would change horses…

Further Reading:

• ‘The Channel Tunnel or ‘Chunnel” (The Train Line, 2022): https://www.thetrainline.com/trains/europe/channel-tunnel#:~:text=On%2030th%20October%201990%2C%20the%20Channel%20Tunnel%E2%80%99s%20advancing,alignment%20was%20just%20358mm%20horizontally%20and%2058mm%20vertically%21 

• ‘Channel Tunnel 1880 Attempt’ (Subterranea Britannica, 1988): https://www.subbrit.org.uk/sites/channel-tunnel-1880-attempt/ 

• ‘How the world’s longest underwater tunnel was built’ (TED-Ed, 2020): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNS2jj2w-GI 

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