Advertisement

Workers break through in first Channel Tunnel

By
LOU GARCIA

CALAIS, France -- Two construction workers shook hands and embraced beneath the English Channel Saturday after breaking through in the 31-mile tunnel that makes it possible for the first time since the Ice Age to walk from England to the continent.

Philippe Cozette of France and Robert Fagg of Britain shook hands through an 11-inch hole at 12:13 p.m. and exchanged their national flags to mark the breakthrough in one of the world's most extraordinary engineering projects.

Advertisement

The underground handshake was a culmination of three years of work during which 3 million tons of rock has been dug from beneath the seabed.

It will be another 2 years before passengers will be able to make the trip on a high-speed train. Thirty million passengers are expected to make the trip in the first year alone.

The next landmark is slated for January, when the service tunnel will be completed. The tunnel runs between two much bigger train tunnels, which are now being bored.

A formal ceremony is planned to mark the event -- French President Francois Mitterrand was to meet Margaret Thatcher in the tunnel, but she lost her position as prime minister last month and new British Prime Minister John Major was expected to go instead.

Advertisement

The Eurotunnel project has inched ahead below ground as controversy raged above.

Financial and delays problems have dogged it and the cost of completion has soared to $15 billion.

Trade unions have been aggrieved by the number of accidents -- seven workers have died on the British side and two on the French.

David Eves, of the Health and Safety Executive, said, however, the project has been generally safe.

'Some of the accidents that have occurred have been absolutely preventable,'he said. 'At the same time, this is an extraordinarily complex construction project ... so one has to be balanced about this.'

Philippe Cozette of France and Robert Fagg of Britain shook hands through an 11-inch hole at 12:13 p.m. and exchanged their national flags to mark the breakthrough in one of the world's most extraordinary engineering projects.

The underground handshake was a culmination of three years of work during which 3 million tons of rock have been dug from beneath the seabed.

It will be another 2 years before passengers will be able to make the trip on a high-speed train. Thirty million passengers are expected to make the trip in the first year alone.

Advertisement

The next landmark is slated for January when the service tunnel will be completed. The tunnel runs between two much bigger train tunnels, which are now being bored.

A formal ceremony is planned to mark the event -- French President Francois Mitterrand was to meet Margaret Thatcher in the tunnel, but she lost her position as prime minister last week and new British Prime Minister John Major was expected to go instead.

The Eurotunnel project has inched ahead below ground as controversy raged above.

Financial and delays problems have dogged it and the cost of completion has soared to $15 billion.

Trade unions have been aggrieved by the number of accidents -- seven workers have died on the British side and two on the French.

David Eves, of the Health and Safety Executive, said, however, the project has been generally safe.

'Some of the accidents that have occurred have been absolutely preventable,'he said. 'At the same time, this is an extraordinarily complex construction project ... so one has to be balanced about this.'

Latest Headlines