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Folkestone, England to Calais, France
Crossing the English Channel between Folkestone, England and Calais, France. A tour de force of engineering and construction problem solving, the controversial Channel Tunnel - or Chunnel built and operated by Eurotunnel, unites England with Continental Europe and is the first land bridge between England and France for 12,000 years. Eurotunnel is a true symbol of the new united Europe.
A Channel tunnel had been the dream of many who had hoped to unite Europe, including the Romans and Napoleon. Napoleon's 1802 scheme to build a tunnel beneath the English Channel called for ventilation from chimneys which protruded above the water's surface. Napoleon could never have imagined the myriad challenges that building the tunnel would present.
Drilling beneath the Channel and disposing of the millions of tons of chalk waste are the more obvious obstacles confronted by the constructors of the Channel Tunnel - or Chunnel. In addition to building a tunnel under 32 miles of English Channel, the project owners Eurotunnel were also hampered by cost, schedule and safety problems. The sheer scale of the project was enormous and it took the combined effort of two governments speaking two languages, 10 major contractors, a quarter of a million engineering drawings and 220 banks to make the Chunnel a reality. The cost of the construction project was more than $5 million a day.
Despite the fact that the project designers and constructors had to deal with two sets of national construction, safety and legal codes, practical experience proved travel in the Tunnel to be safe and reliable. In November 1996 no-one was hurt when a truck aboard one 29-car shuttle bound for England caught fire. The fire, which was just two years after the start of Eurostar services between Paris and London and Brussels and London, can be considered the first big test of the Tunnel's safety and evacuation systems. Despite the fact that the blaze literally turned the running tunnel into an oven, all passengers and crew were released from the hospital within 24 hours. Police and rescue workers on the English side of the Chunnel were able to use an imaging system of engineering drawings to locate access evacuation routes. The fire caused no significant damage to the tunnel's concrete liner. However, the concrete segments used in the tunnel were engineered to withstand enormous heat and pressure. The performance of the concrete was improved by controlling the type of aggregate used and adding protective linings.
Eurotunnel which operates the Channel Tunnel, runs two services one for cars and their passengers and one for heavy goods vehicles (trucks). Motorists and passengers stay with their vehicles for the journey through the tunnel which takes 35 minutes from platform to platform. Truck drivers do not stay with their vehicles during the journey. Instead they spend the short time in the Club Car where they are served a meal and have a chance to relax.
In addition to Eurotunnel's shuttle services, the Channel Tunnel is also used by Eurostars and Freight trains. The Eurostar carries passengers at up to 300 kph (186 mph) between London's Waterloo Station and the Gare du Nord in Paris or the Midi Station in Brussels. The train takes approximately 30 minutes to cross the English Channel through the Tunnel. The Eurostar service is operated by a private company separate from Eurotunnel. Freight trains also use the Channel Tunnel, allowing destinations across Europe to be connected directly by rail for the first time.
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