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The Channel Tunnel, 20 years already

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PLEASE NOTE: This guide was originally written in French. If you are using the English version of our site, you will see an automatic translation. You can change the language from the menu in the site header or see our English language guides here.

The Eurotunnel is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Let's take a closer look at why this structure, which crosses the Channel for more than 50 kilometers and in which 12,000 people participated, is qualified as a major civil engineering project of the last 100 years.

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“Twenty years after its inauguration, the Channel Tunnel remains a prodigious industrial adventure. No less than 12,000 people took part in the construction of the longest underwater tunnel. The structure, which stretches over 50 kilometers, 38 of which are pierced under the sea, was consecrated last September as a "major civil engineering project of the last 100 years" by the International Federation of Consulting Engineers. "
Source: Le Figaro
The following activities will allow you to discover this long tunnel and learn more about the obstacles encountered during its construction under the sea.


At the end of the activities, the student will be able to:
- Compare different types of tunnels around the world;
- Name the reasons that require the construction of a tunnel;
- Name the number of trains and passengers using the tunnel daily;
- Explain the reasons which determined the location of the tunnel;
- Identify the type of soil needed to dig a tunnel under the sea.

Suggested Activities

ACTIVITY 1: Discover the Channel train

Start the activity by visiting Google maps in order to observe the two countries which are linked by the Eurotunnel under the Channel.
Continue by presenting this video behind the scenes of the Channel and which provides several pieces of information that the students will be invited to record on the following listening grid:

Click on the image to enlarge.
Download the file in PDF format (.pdf)

ACTIVITY 2: Stages of construction of the Eurotunnel

For this second activity, students will be invited to detail one aspect of the construction of the Eurotunnel.
Begin the activity by presenting this video describing the different stages of tunnel construction both in terms of its location and the type of soil required for increased strength.
Continue by informing the students that they are invited to make an informative animated film, with the site GoAnimate, which explains one of the aspects detailed in the video presented at the start of the activity.

Image source and help tutorial

Have students create an animation to explain the answer to one of the following questions:
Why was the tunnel built?
How did we choose its location?
Why was the layer of blue chalk drilled rather than the clay part?
How do trains travel under the tunnel?
How can trains be diverted from one tunnel to another?
How do you avoid collisions?
How is daily ventilation ensured and what is done in the event of a fire to prevent smoke from spreading?
Note that these question tracks can be enriched with your own questions. You could also let the students decide for themselves which aspects they want to include in their animation.

ACTIVITY 3: Large tunnels around the world

Suggest that the students make an infographic of a large tunnel. To do this, invite them to view the infographic of the Toulon tunnel and point out the type of information found there.
Group the students into small work teams to do the information research portion of a tunnel of their choice. Suggest that they use the list of longest tunnels in the world or the list of the longest tunnels by country.
Continue with the creation of an infographic, from the site infogr.am, data collected on the Internet. You could ask the students to include mandatory pieces of information such as the length of the tunnel of their choice, the duration of the works, their cost, the speed of construction per day, etc.

More about the magazine

The Channel Tunnel: a technical feat, a human adventure (selective bibliography)
National Library of France, July 2013
Channel Tunnel: 20 years later, more fear than harm
RTBF, May 3, 2014
20 years of the Channel Tunnel: hundreds of projects and two attempts in 1880 and 1975
The voice of the north, May 3, 2014
The Channel Tunnel celebrates its 20th anniversary
Le Point, May 3, 2014
Tunnel under the Manche
Seven wonders of the world

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Designed to fill short periods or inspire larger projects, the activities offered in the SCOOP! allow the teacher to approach the subject matter in the program in addition to developing the information literacy and digital skills of the students.

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