In 1802, the first proposal to build a channel tunnel was set forth by French engineer, Albert Mathieu. He suggested to Napoleon III that they instigate a tunnel, lit only by oil lamps, in which horse-drawn carriages could shuttle people back and forth between England and France. But, war soon broke out (again) between the two countries, and the proposals were shelved for nearly two centuries.
After many stops and starts, boring machines began drilling in 1988. Eleven machines and more than 1,500 workers were used to complete the tunnels, which cost an estimated £4,650 million pounds. The tunnel as we know it today opened in 1994. It is considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world, as it's the longest undersea tunnel on the globe.
Eurostar Train — Photo courtesy of Andy Roberts
The deepest point of the tunnel is 250 meters below sea level, and ended up being a staggering 80% over budget. Just to give you an idea, apparently the cost of the so-called 'Chunnel' was enough to build San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge 700 times over.
In 2007, a faster link was added from Kings Cross St. Pancras straight to Folkstone. Originally, a second London location was planned at Stratford International, in time for the London Olympics. The Stratford station cost an estimated £210 million pounds and was meant to ferry people directly to the games from the Continent.
Eurostar and the London Olympics — Photo courtesy of Andy Roberts
Although the station is now open and operates high speed services to Ashford in Kent and a link via South Eastern trains to St. Pancras international, Eurostar announced back in 2010 that they would not start their France-bound trains from Stratford. Like much of the Olympic site, the Stratford international platform is still in the middle of a huge construction project, and has attracted some criticism about the cost versus utility of the planned site and transport links.
Other companies are due to start using Stratford international after the games in late 2012, but the future of Eurostar's involvement is still in question. That said, Stratford is a great transport hub for London, the South East,and beyond. The feeling of regeneration around the area–which has been further fanned by links to the rest of Europe with the international station–and a fast service right to the heart of Middle Europe have created a lot of buzz; all the planners have to do now is turn that buzz into investment, passengers, and fast, efficient business opportunities.
South Eastern High Speed Train — Photo courtesy of Andy Roberts @AndyRobertsPhotos