The longest undersea rail tunnel in the world, the Channel Tunnel – also known as the ‘Chunnel’ – provides the only permanent link between the island of Great Britain and continental Europe.
In our guide to the Channel Tunnel, we explain its history, how it was built, which trains it serves and more. So, what are you waiting for? Keep reading for more details.
The Channel Tunnel, also referred to as the ‘Chunnel’, is the longest underwater rail tunnel in the world and connects southern England (Folkestone Terminal) to northern France (Calais Terminal) beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover.
Owned and operated by Getlink, the Chunnel is actually made of three tunnels – two rail tunnels, which are used for freight and passenger trains, and a service tunnel – and carries high-speed Eurostar trains, international freight trains and the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle service for road vehicles.
The Channel Tunnel runs between Calais in northern France and Folkestone in south Kent. Road vehicles for Eurotunnel Le Shuttle get on in Calais and get off in Folkestone, while Eurostar trains depart from London St Pancras International station in London and go directly to the centre of Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, and other European destinations.
The Chunnel is 31.5 miles (50.45 km) long, of which 23.5 miles (37.9 km) are under the English Channel, making it the longest undersea tunnel in the world.
The idea of building a tunnel under the English Channel was first proposed in 1802 but construction only began in 1988. The Channel Tunnel was completed in 1993 and was officially opened on 6th May 1994 by Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterrand. The first Eurostar services started in November 1994.
Working from both the English side and the French side of the Channel, eleven boring machines cut through chalk marl to construct three separate tunnels running parallel to each other: one train tunnel running south from the UK to France, one running north from France to the UK and one a service tunnel.
All three tunnels were drilled below the seabed and link Folkestone in Kent to Coquelles in Pas-de-Calais.
At its deepest, the Chunnel is 246 feet (75 metres) below the sea level.
The Chunnel connects end-to-end with the high-speed railway lines of the LGV Nord in France and High Speed 1 in England. GetLink operate the tunnel and provide vehicle transport services with the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle between Folkestone and Calais, while Eurostar run high-speed passenger trains between London and many destinations in Europe, including Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam. Whether you’re travelling with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle or Eurostar, you’ll need to go through security checks, border controls and ticket checks before going through the Chunnel.
Read on for more information on Eurostar, including popular routes and how to get the cheapest fares.
Have a look at some of the most popular Eurostar routes via the Channel Tunnel below – simply tap the route you’re interested in to check train times, compare ticket prices, and learn more about the train journey.
Fastest journey time
Want to save money on your train journey through the Channel Tunnel? Read our top tips to snap up the cheapest Eurostar fares.
Eurostar train tickets usually go on sale 6 months before the date of travel. Make sure you book in advance if you want to snap up the cheapest fares as these tend to sell out, leaving only the more expensive tickets.
When travelling on the Eurostar, you can benefit from reduced fares by travelling in the middle of the week (Tuesday or Wednesday) and at times of the day that are less busy. When searching for tickets, we'll show you all available tickets, highlighting the cheapest ones for you.
Eurostar have been known to hold flash sales for tickets, with the cheapest one-way tickets from £29. Keep an eye on our Deals & Discounts page for the latest Eurostar offers to save on your train journey.
There are so many interesting facts about the Channel Tunnel. Have a look at our top picks below and learn more about one of the biggest engineering projects ever undertaken in the United Kingdom.
Thinking of taking the Eurostar for your next train trip in Europe and having a couple of questions before you travel? Have a look at our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Chunnel from our customers.
Yes. The Channel Tunnel is the longest undersea tunnel in the world: its section under the sea is 23.5 miles (37.9 km) long.
It took five years – from 1988 to 1993 – to build the Channel Tunnel.
Yes. Eurostar runs high-speed passenger services through the Channel Tunnel between London and a number of other European cities, including Paris, Brussels, Lille, Lyon, Avignon and Marseille.
It takes around 35 minutes for the Eurostar to cross the 23-mile underwater stretch of the Channel Tunnel.
Eurostar and Eurotunnel are completely different companies but they share use of the Channel Tunnel. Eurotunnel is operated by Getlink, the company that owns and operates the Channel Tunnel, connecting the UK with France, while Eurostar is a customer of Getlink and runs its passenger trains through the Chunnel.
Yes. 4G mobile services are available in the Channel Tunnel – WiFi will work on both sides of the English Channel and in the tunnel itself.
The Eurostar travels through the Chunnel at speeds of up to 100 mph (160 km/h) but it can reach up to 186 mph (300 km/h) outside the tunnel.
We’ve told you everything you need to know about the Channel Tunnel but if you want to learn more about Eurostar or train travel in Europe, check out our travel guides.