The Channel Tunnel is one of the world’s greatest feats of engineering. The fixed link between the UK and mainland Europe opened in 1994, allowing direct Eurostar services to convey passengers at high speed between London and Paris/Brussels. At the same time, car and lorry-carrying Shuttles began to transport road traffic the short distance under the Channel.
The great celebrations at the official opening were accompanied by forecasts of considerable traffic growth in the years ahead. Some of those predictions have come to pass, with Eurostar now dominant over air travel on the London–Paris/Brussels routes, but a series of turbulent events, including Tunnel fires and the various migrant crises, have prevented overall traffic from reaching those initial expectations.
Channel Tunnel: 25 Years of Experience reveals how the Channel Tunnel operates on a day-to-day basis. It begins with an overview of the tunnel itself and associated infrastructure, including the vast yards and terminals constructed to serve tunnel traffic. It then moves on to examine the three principal traffic flows through the tunnel:
The book firstly looks at Eurotunnel and its Shuttle services, including both passenger and freight Shuttles. It includes details of the Shuttle locomotives and trains and describes how the terminals at either end of the tunnel operate. Shunting and battery locomotives used by Eurotunnel are described and this section also covers the tunnel fires and their impact on services.
Eurostar is the next group of services to be examined. The book describes how initial services on the core London–Paris/Brussels route have expanded over the years to serve several other destinations across France and, since 2018, Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It also looks at the ambitious plans to introduce North of London Eurostars in the UK and examines why the service ultimately failed. Unusual visitors to the UK are also covered in this section, including DB’s ICE and SNCF’s Postal TGV.
The third major traffic flow is that of long-distance through-freight services between the UK and the continent. As well as containing details of specific traffic flows, Channel Tunnel: 25 Years of Experience discusses the many difficulties encountered by freight operators, not least the various migrant crises that have dramatically reduced the volume of freight carried in recent years.
The story of the Class 92 locomotives, built specifically for Channel Tunnel traffic, is told in detail. These locomotives never fulfilled their full potential and some examples are now to be found operating domestic services in countries across Europe.
The book concludes with a discussion of future prospects for international freight and passenger services and takes a brief look at the ill-fated Nighstar service. These highly-specified trains never made it into public service, with the rolling stock instead being sold to a Canadian operator.