Chunnel Timeline

A Chronology of the Building of the Chunnel

Channel Tunnel Extension under Construction
David Sailors / Getty Images

Building the Chunnel, or Channel Tunnel, was one of the largest and most impressive engineering tasks of the 20th century. Engineers had to find a way to dig under the English Channel, creating three tunnels under the water.

Find out more about this amazing engineering feat through this Chunnel timeline.

A Timeline of the Chunnel

1802 -- French engineer Albert Mathieu Favier created a plan to dig a tunnel under the English Channel for horse-drawn carriages.

1856 -- Frenchman Aimé Thomé de Gamond created a plan to dig two tunnels, one from Great Britain and one from France, that meet in the middle on an artificial island.

1880 -- Sir Edward Watkin began drilling two underwater tunnels, one from the British side and the other from the French. However, after two years, the British public's fears of an invasion won out and Watkins was forced to stop drilling.

1973 -- Britain and France agreed on an underwater railway that would link their two countries. Geologic investigations began and digging started. However, two years later, Britain pulled out because of an economic recession.

November 1984 -- British and French leaders once again agreed that a Channel link would be mutually beneficial. Since they realized that their own governments could not fund such a monumental project, they held a contest.

April 2, 1985 -- A contest to find a company that could plan, fund, and operate a Channel link was announced.

January 20, 1986 -- The winner of the contest was announced. The design for a Channel Tunnel (or Chunnel), an underwater railway, was chosen.

February 12, 1986 -- Representatives from both the United Kingdom and France signed a treaty approving the Channel Tunnel.

December 15, 1987 -- Digging began on the British side, starting with the middle, service tunnel.

February 28, 1988 -- Digging began on the French side, starting with the middle, service tunnel.

December 1, 1990 -- The linking of the first tunnel was celebrated. It was the first time in history that Great Britain and France were connected.

May 22, 1991 -- The British and French met in the middle of the northern running tunnel.

June 28, 1991 -- The British and French met in the middle of the southern running tunnel.

December 10, 1993 -- The first test-run of the entire Channel Tunnel was conducted.

May 6, 1994 -- The Channel Tunnel officially opened. French President Francois Mitterrand and British Queen Elizabeth II were on hand to celebrate.

November 18, 1996 -- A fire broke out on one of the trains in the southern running tunnel (taking passengers from France to Great Britain). Although all the people on board were rescued, the fire did a lot of damage to the train and to the tunnel.

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Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Chunnel Timeline." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Rosenberg, Jennifer. (2020, August 28). Chunnel Timeline. Retrieved from Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Chunnel Timeline." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).