This isn't a post about abolishionists helping runaway slaves find their way north.
This past Friday (Nov. 6) another underground railroad (and a marvel of engineering) celebrated 15 and a half years of moving people under the English Channel. Congratulations. Or happy 15 and a half birthday.
North Americans are fond of calling the Channel Tunnel the "Chunnel", although Europeans are not as keen on that nickname. The French call it Le tunnel sous la Manche, meaning... ummm... Don Quixote's Tunnel. I think.
The tunnel runs from Coquelles to Folkestone, which is very close to the narrowest point of the English Channel. Why not Calais to Dover? Who knows.
Those of us on this side of the pond mostly envision a big tunnel with two lanes of traffic to drive your car through, with a toll booth greeting you before you enter. "That'll be 30 pounds, please." Or 40 Euros. Or 12,000,000 Francs. Or whatever France is using for money now. Probably Euros. Oddly, the British still weigh their money in pounds rather than kilos. Fact. A sterling practice, that.
But the truth is, vehicles (and people and freight - and animals too, I suppose) are shuttled by trains through the tunnel. Most of you are waiting for more facts, so here you go:
(I stole these from a variety of websites, including one who billed his list "Amazing Chunnel Facts").
1. "The Chunnel is one of Europe's biggest infrastructure projects ever." [Well big effing DUH.]
2. "Consists of three interconnecting tubes; one train track each way and a small service tunnel." [The word "interconnecting" was not really needed, in my opinion.]
3. "Its length is 31.4 miles, of which 23 are underwater." [Shame that the channel is 51 miles wide at that point. Kidding. JaJaJa.]
4. "The tunnel goes as deep as 150 meters under the sea." (I'm guessing that is, like, 65 feet. Maybe more. Probably more.)
5. "It takes only about 20 minutes [bet it seems like a century] to cover the length of the tunnel under the sea." [Ok, we GET that it is under the sea. You can start leaving that part out.]
6. "There are a total of 95 miles of tunnels." [Why? I thought you said 31 miles! And it only takes 20 minutes? Lying sack. Oh, wait. I get it - 3 tunnels. Okay.]
7. "The tunnel was constructed by nearly 13,000 engineers and workers." [Are you saying engineers don't work? What was the ratio - 3 to 1, something like that? With that many engineers, no wonder you ended up with 95 miles of tunnel.]
8. "The volume of rubble removed from the tunnel is 3 times greater than the Chepos Pyramid in Egypt, and increased the size of Britain by 90 acres, which is the equivalent of 65 football fields [for those who prefer to measure their rubble in football fields rather than acres] and this area has been made into a park." [I'm guessing you meant to say "Cheops", but thank you for saying "Egypt" because I was thinking of southern Indiana until you said Egypt.]
9. "They called the park Coney Island." [I just made that up to keep you reading.]
10. Okay, I'm starting to doubt this guy. Going to Wikipedia now.
A. Wikipedia says at its deepest point it is 75 meters deep. [Discrepancy in depth probably due to the excess of engineers.]
B. Wikipedia: Construction started in 1988 and completed in 1994, amazingly only 80% over budget. [Considering the French only have a 3-day work week, I mean.]
C. Fires have disrupted operation of the tunnel.
D. Illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers heading to England have been a problem. [None headed to France it seems. Or no mention.]
E. The Chunnel consist of three tunnels: two 25-foot bores 98 feet apart (the railroad tunnels), and a 16-foot diameter service tunnel in between the railroad tunnels.
F. Cost was 4650 million pounds. 10 workers were killed.
G. With additions of track and stations since the tunnel opened, one can now ride the train from London to Paris.
H. On high-speed trains traveling up to 186 miles per hour (300 kph), the trip from London to Paris takes about 2 hours 15 minutes. You can go from London to Brussels in one hour 51 minutes.
I. Eurostar carried 9,113,371 passengers beneath the channel in 2008. (This is just passengers, not autos or freight.)
J. According to the Eurostar website, a one-way ticket is about US$147. Ouch. Airfare, London to Paris is $144 (according to Expedia) and that is round trip. I don't know. I guess if you have your car the tunnel is the way to go, but not otherwise. Unless I'm missing something.
Fun (though admittedly unrelated) fact about other underground railroads: You knew that John Brown was a wild-eyed abolitionist, but did you know that Wild Bill Hickok's father's farm in Indiana was a stop on the Underground Railroad? And that the young Wild learned to shoot well defending the farm/station from... ummm... who? That's a poser. Never mind.
Canterbury film trailer
3 years ago