The underwater tunnel, better known as the Channel Tunnel, is a 50 km railway tunnel connecting southeastern England to northern France. The lowest point lies 75 meters below the ocean floor at the lowest point of the sea. The tunnel is operated by the Eurotunnel Group, a British-French company. Three types of trains run through the tunnel. Shuttle trains travel approximately 30 minutes from Folkestone to Calais, transporting cars, buses, and trucks. High-speed Eurostar 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.
Although initial plans for the tunnel were mentioned in the early 19th century, construction did not begin until 1988. Building the tunnel was a highly demanding engineering task. During the construction period, teams used specialized machines to bore through mostly chalk rock. Some were as long as football fields and could penetrate 80 meters of rock per day. At times, nearly 15,000 workers were employed in the Eurotunnel. As construction progressed, Eurotunnel realized that the overall costs would skyrocket. The privately financed project ended up costing almost double the initial estimate, nearly 15 billion euros.
The tunnel was officially opened in 1994, with approximately 15 million people traveling through it annually. While it provides an excellent alternative to air travel, the trains in the Channel Tunnel did not transport as many passengers as expected. Over the years, the company has incurred losses in the millions of euros. Three major fires have occurred since the tunnel opened. The most recent took place in 2008 and lasted for 16 hours. Although no one died, many people had to be transferred to hospitals. In December 2009, during cold weather, a power outage occurred, leaving over 2000 passengers stranded in the tunnel.