Flanked by two powerful European nations,
the English Channel has long been one of the world’s most important maritime passages.
Yet for most of its history,
the channel’s rocky shores and stormy weather
made crossing a dangerous prospect.
Engineers of the early 1800’s proposed numerous plans
for spanning the 33 kilometers gap.
Their designs included artificial islands linked by bridges,
submerged tubes suspended from floating platforms,
and an underwater passage more than twice the length of any existing tunnel.
By the end of the century,
this last proposal had captured European imagination.
The invention of the tunnel boring machine
and the discovery of a stable layer of chalk marl below the seabed
made this fantastic tunnel more feasible.
But the project’s most urgent obstacles were ones no engineer could solve.
但是 这项工程最迫切需要克服的障碍 却是工程师们无法解决的
At the time, Britons viewed their geographic isolation as a strategic advantage,
and fears about French invasion shut down plans for the tunnel.
The rise of aerial warfare rendered these worries obsolete,
but new economic concerns arose to replace them.
Finally, 100 years after the initial excavation,
the two countries reached an agreement—
the tunnel would proceed with private funding.
In 1985, a group of French and British companies invested the modern equivalent of 14 billion pounds,
making the tunnel, the most expensive infrastructure project to date.
The design called for three separate tunnels—
one for trains to France, one for trains to England,
and one service tunnel between them.
Alongside crossover chambers, emergency passages, and air ducts,
this amounted to over 200 kilometers of tunnels.
In 1988, workers began excavating from both sides,
planning to meet in the middle.
Early surveys of the French coast revealed
the site was full of fault lines.
These small cracks let water seep into the rock,
so engineers had to develop waterproof boring machines.
The British anticipated drier conditions,
and forged ahead with regular borers.
But only months into the work,
water flooded in through undetected fissures.
To drill in this wet chalk,
the British had to use grout to seal the cracks created in the borer’s wake,
and even work ahead of the main borer
to reinforce the chalk about to be drilled.
With these obstacles behind them, both teams began drilling at full speed.
Boring machines weighing up to 1,300 tons
drilled at nearly 3.5 meters per hour.
As they dug, they installed lining rings
to stabilize the tunnel behind them,
making way for support wagons following each machine.
Even at top speed, work had to proceed carefully.
The chalk layer followed a winding path between unstable rock and clay,
punctured by over 100 boring holes made by previous surveyors.
Furthermore, both teams had to constantly check their coordinates
to ensure they were on track to meet within 2 centimeters of each other.
To maintain this delicate trajectory,
the borers employed satellite positioning systems,
as well as paleontologists who used excavated fossils
to confirm they were at the right depth.
During construction, the project employed over 13,000 people
and cost the lives of ten workers.
But after two and a half years of tunneling,
the two sides finally made contact.
British worker Graham Fagg emerged on the French side,
英国工人 Graham Fagg 出现在法国
becoming the first human to cross the channel by land since the Ice Age.
There was still work to be done—
from installing crossover chambers and pumping stations,
to laying over a hundred miles of tracks, cables, and sensors.
But on May 6, 1994, an opening ceremony marked the tunnel’s completion.
Full public service began 16 months later,
with trains for passengers and rail shuttles for cars and trucks.
Today, the Channel Tunnel services over 20 million passengers a year,
transporting riders across the channel in just 35 minutes.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the privilege of making this trip legally.
Thousands of refugees have tried to enter Britain through the tunnel
in sometimes fatal attempts.
These tragedies have transformed the tunnel’s southern entrance
into an ongoing site of conflict.
Hopefully, the structure’s history can serve as a reminder
that humanity is at their best when breaking down barriers.
Fissures, leaks and cracks were the major obstacle
in the construction of the English Channel Tunnel.
岩溶裂隙 泄露 龟裂是主要的障碍
But what if there was type of concrete that could heal itself
It’s not science fiction, It’s a mind-boggling material
that could change the future of engineering
Learn more with this video
or stay on track and explore the London underground.