Thirty-five minutes is all it takes to get from the U.K. to France. Considering that a New Yorker can’t even get from Brooklyn Bridge to the Bronx in that amount of time on North America’s largest transportation network, the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is an incredible system. Since it opened in 1994, the Channel Tunnel (the “Chunnel”) has brought 300 million travelers to and from England and France – that’s equivalent to more than four times the population of the U.K. It’s the world’s longest undersea tunnel (23.5 miles of it are underwater), and for the first time, the public will be allowed to see what goes on behind the scenes and underground.
Though tours of the Chunnel have been going on for three years now, this is the first time they’ll be offered on the British side of the tunnel. Ninety-minute tours of a section of the 31.4-mile-long tunnel will give visitors a unique look at what it takes to operate the tunnel from start to finish. Starting at check-in, you’ll get to visit the control center, the boarding platforms, and finally, the tunnel. What’s more, you’ll meet some of the workers who maintain and service the system.
This is also the first time the tour will be part of the European Heritage Days. The special days during the year, which have been going on since 1985, offer tourists and locals alike the rare opportunity to visit often unseen monuments and places in their city (learn about other events across multiple countries). As a key connector between the U.K. and continental Europe, the tunnel is “being recognized as part of the cultural and tourist heritage of the South East of England” and beyond.
The tour will begin at the check-in station. To get to Folkstone, you can either drive (from South London it takes about 90 minutes) and take Junction 11A off of the M20 highway, or take the train from London’s Victoria or Charing stations. From Folkstone Central, you can take a cab or walk to the Channel Tunnel station – it’s about two kilometers away (1.2 miles).
This year’s tickets for September 15th (this Sunday) have sold out, but if the trend continues, Eurotunnel Group will continue their tours next year and beyond. However, no firm details or dates have been released yet. Check here for more information on this year’s tour.