The Channel Tunnel - A Train Link Between Great Britain and France


The Channel Tunnel, also known as the Chunnel, is a 50 km long undersea rail tunnel that connects south-eastern England with northern France. At its lowest point it lies 75 metres under the ocean floor. The tunnel is operated by the Eurotunnel Group, a British – French company.

Three types of trains travel through the tunnel.

  • Shuttle trains travel from Folkestone to Calais in about half an hour. Cars , trucks and buses can be loaded onto them.
  • The Eurostar high-speed passenger trains bring people from Paris to London in 2 hours and 15 minutes and passengers from Brussels to London in 1 hour and 50 minutes.
  • freight trains



Although the first plans to dig an undersea tunnel between Britain and the Continent came up at the beginning of the 19 th century construction didn’t begin until 1988. The tunnel was finished and officially opened in 1994. Since its opening there have been some problems. Fires broke out and illegal immigrants have used the tunnel to get to Great Britain.

The tunnel consists of two rail tunnels and a smaller service tunnel that lies between them. It is used an escape route and for repairs. It also supplies the two train tunnels with fresh air. Emergency vehicles can get to the scene of an accident quickly.



Building the tunnel was a difficult engineering task. During the construction period teams from both sides used special machines to bore through the mostly chalky rock. Some were as long as football fields and could cut through 80 metres of rock a day. At times, almost 15,000 workers were employed by Eurotunnel. As construction progressed Eurotunnel realized that overall costs would explode. The project, which was financed with private money, cost almost 15 billion Euros, more than twice as much as projected.



Since its official opening in 1994, about 15 million people have travelled through the tunnel every year. Even though it is a real alternative to air travel, Channel Tunnel trains have not carried as many passengers as its operator, Eurotunnel, expected. The company lost millions of Euros over the years.

Although safety is a top priority for Eurotunnel there have been three big fires that forced the tunnel to close down. The last one occurred in 2008 and lasted for 16 hours. Nobody was killed but many people had to be taken to hospitals.

In December 2009 over 2000 passengers were trapped in the tunnel because electricity failed in the cold weather.



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  • although = while
  • billion = one thousand million
  • bore = cut through
  • chalk = soft grey rock formed a long time ago from the shells of sea animals
  • connect = link
  • consist of = is made up of
  • construction = the building of
  • dig = cut through rock
  • electricity = power
  • emergency vehicle = cars or trucks that are used when an accident or another disaster happens
  • employ = to work for someone
  • escape = to get away from a dangerous place
  • explode = here: to get much to big
  • fail = to stop working
  • force = to make something happen
  • freight = goods, products, not people
  • high-speed = very, very fast
  • illegal = against the law
  • immigrant = a person who leaves their home country and goes to another country to live or work their
  • low = deep
  • occur = happen
  • officially = formally, in public
  • operate = control
  • overall = in general, for everything
  • priority = the thing that you think about and care for most
  • progress =to go on
  • project = plan
  • realize = to find out
  • repair = to fix something
  • safety = security, to be protected form
  • scene of an accident = place where an accident happens
  • service = here: checks and repairs
  • shuttle = a train that makes short trips between two places
  • supply = provide, give
  • task = job
  • trap = to be in a place so that you cannot get out