May 6, 1994
The Channel Tunnel, running beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover and linking the port town of Folkestone in southeastern England with the commune of Coquelles in northern France, was officially opened. (“England and France, Now a Train Trip,” proclaimed a headline in the New York Times.)
The 31.35-mile (50.45-kilometer)-long tunnel, which is also widely known as the Chunnel, has the longest undersea section of any structure of its kind in the world. The formal debut of the Channel Tunnel was anything but low-key. “There were speeches, fanfares and guards of honor on both sides of the Strait of Dover to celebrate the completion of a $15 billion engineering triumph that is being compared to the Panama and Suez Canals,” reported the New York Times. “On both sides of the channel, shrouded in fog and mist on a murky spring day, there was a powerful sense of history in the making.’
Both Queen Elizabeth II of England and President François Mitterand of France were on hand for the inaugural festivities, which included participating in a ceremony in France and traveling together through the tunnel to the English side via her royal Rolls Royce Phantom VI on board a car-carrying train. “Mitterand compared Europe’s greatest engineering project of the century to the daring of Channel swimmers, North Pole explorers, and moon landings,” stated an Associated Press news report. “The queen called it a happy fusion of ‘French elan and British pragmatism.’”
For more information on the official opening of the Channel Tunnel, please check out http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/may/6/newsid_2511000/2511653.stm.