The Channel Tunnel was given a Special BCI Award for an Outstanding Feat of Civil Engineering in 1994. The project was the realisation of a 200-year-old dream to connect England and France, and has been described as ‘the civil-engineering project of the century’.
The 63-month Anglo-French construction project included a 50km triple-bore tunnel, 39km of which is undersea – making it the longest undersea tunnel in the world.
Tunnel-boring machines (TBMs) worked simultaneously from the French and English sides through a single chalk stratum, at an average of 45m under the sea floor. The TBMs for the 4.8m-diameter service tunnel met in 1990; TBMs for the main tunnels met in 1991.
The tunnelling operation saw 8,000,000m3 of soil excavated at an average of 2,400 tonnes an hour. Much of the excavated soil on the English side was used to reclaim land near Folkestone, which is now a popular park.
The twin 7.6m-diameter running tunnels linking to the 4.8m service tunnel were driven in just over three years under stringent safety criteria.
The construction consortium TransManche Link included UK firms Balfour Beatty, Bouygues, Costain, Taylor Woodrow and Mott MacDonald.
Despite the fact that the project ran 80 per cent over budget with an estimated final cost of around £10 billion, the BCIA judges praised the project team for bringing ‘a dream to reality’.
‘Breathtaking though they are, the statistics alone cannot convey the awesome magnitude of the undertaking or thechallenge of bringing it to fruition. The judges salute all those who played a part in turning the dream into reality,’ they continued.
Operator Eurotunnel has since suffered massive losses on the project, citing a lack of business, high access charges and massive debt, which causes a heavyinterest-payment burden. This has discouraged investors from looking at a second Channel Tunnel.
However, passenger numbers rose steadily to 8.2 million in 2005, and are expectedto increase further as a result of the opening of the High Speed One rail link from St Pancras to Folkestone in
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