Utilizing the Eurostar train the $15 billion Channel Tunnel makes the old dream of a ground link between Great Britain and continental Europe a reality for the first time since the Ice Ages. Nicknamed the "Chunnel" by some and known to the French as "le tunnel sous la Manche", it consists of 3 interconnected tubes: one rail track each way plus the service tunnel. 31 miles long, of which 23 miles are under water, its average depth is 150 feet under the seabed. The channel crossing time for Eurostar is only 17 minutes.A few factoids about the Channel Tunnel:.
*First suggested by a French engineer in1802 he envisioned travellers making the journey by horse and carriage, with lanterns to light the way.*Started in 1987, tunneling completed in 1994.*95 miles of tunnels were dug by nearly 13,000 engineers, technicians and workers.*The volume of rubble removed from the tunnel is three times greater than that of the Cheops Pyramid in Egypt and as it was dumped on the UK side, it has increased the size of Britain by 90 acres.
Equivalent to 68 football fields, this area has been made into a park.Eurostar trains travel at high speeds in France and on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link where the tracks are modern and custom-made for the standard TGV cruising speed of 300 km/h (186 mph), and within the tunnel at up to 160 km/h (100 mph). The first section of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, between the tunnel & Ebbsfleet in North Kent, opened in 2003. Until the second section between Ebbsfleet and St Pancras opens in 2007, Eurostar trains use 'traditional' lines for the final part of the journey into Waterloo, running at much lower speeds.
After 2007, the time from London to Paris will drop to 2˝ hours.Of more immediate interest to travellers going from Big Ben to the Eiffel Tower might be that the trip takes 3 hours with 15 trains a day. Or you can take the Eurostar to Brussels, again 3 hours with 10 trains a day. The actual tunnel crossing is a 17 minute black, silent, 100 mph, uneventful ride.
It is actually faster than flying and much easier.There are three ticket classes, Premium First Class, First Class, and Second Class. First Class provides you with either dinner or breakfast, while the Premium Class adds such niceties as Eurostar Lounge privileges, exclusive compartment, a taxi on arrival, but at a price, nearly twice that of Second Class. Seniors over 60 get a discount, about $100 US off Regular First Class.
Be aware that the Second Class can sell out. Ideally buy your tickets before leaving USA or Canada through your travel agent. You can compare prices at: eurostar.co.uk or at raileurope.com.
If you have definite dates, etc., you can book by calling 800-eurostar. For maximum spontaneity you can also buy your ticket at any major train station in Europe. As always with tickets and rates, there are specials available, so be sure to ask. Besides Seniors discounts, Eurostar has promotions like Fun-Days and Leisure Round trips. For example, the "Leisure Round-Trip 60" Second Class actually costs less than the Regular Second Class One Way.
There is also a bus option. Eurolines offers a one way ticket for about 84 Euros from London to Paris in nine hours. But be careful which bus you book, one goes to Paris via Brussels, that's nearly fifteen hours, which might be too much of a good thing!.The Channel Tunnel and the Eurostar has changed the links between Europe and Britain. It has certainly been busy. In 2004, 7,276,675 passengers traveled through the tunnel on Eurostar while in the same year Eurotunnel carried 2,101,323 cars, 1,281,207 trucks and 63,467 coaches on its shuttle trains.
For all this, it is still operating seriously in the red and probably will continue to do so for the next two decades. Operating at a deficit or not, it is most unlikely that it will close, too many people use it and there's too much individual ego and too many national egos at stake..
Michael Russell.Your Independent guide to Tourism.
By: Michael Russell