Channel Tunnel


How the Channel Tunnel Works

The three tunnels (made up of two single-track railway tunnels and a much smaller service tunnel that is used as an emergency exit) that were excavated through the chalky ground are coated with pre-cast concrete panels. However, the English sides and French sides differ slightly; the French used cast iron or high-strength concrete, but the English only used iron-lined parts in areas of bad geology. The rail tunnels are 25 foot in diameter, and 30 metres apart.

The Channel Tunnel carries different types of trains; some are shuttle trains that passengers can drive on and off with their cars, others are operated by Eurostar. However, all of the lines are electric.

Problems encountered

Illegal Immigration

Asylum seekers and immigrants have been using the tunnel since the opening to try and access Britain. Many were from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, but there are also many from Eastern European countries and Africa. After only a year of being open, the sheer numbers began to receive much negative press coverage, resulting in the French Red Cross opening a refugee centre close to the entrance of the tunnel at Sangatte. However, after riots at the camp in 2001 and 2002, and opposition from the UK government, the camp was forced to close. Many refugees have died trying to access Britain illegally, by jumping from moving train to moving train. Illegal immigration still proves to be problematic in the Channel Tunnel today.


Since the tunnel opened, there have been three separate incidents of fires, all of which were large enough to completely close off the whole tunnel. On the 18th November 1996, the first of the Channel Tunnel fires broke out on a heavy goods vehicle. It was an unknown cause, and no one was hurt. On the 21st August 2006 a truck travelling on a shuttle train caught fire, and tunnel was forced to close for a few hours. But the largest of the fires was on the 11th September 2008, close to the French entrance. The tunnel was closed to all types of traffic, and many people were taken to hospital after experiencing smoke inhalation.

Channel Tunnel Operators

Eurostar | Eurotunnel