Kent marks 30 years since official launch of the Channel Tunnel

It is 30 years this week since Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the Channel Tunnel, the world’s longest tunnel.

On May 6, 1994, The Queen took a Eurostar train through the world’s longest undersea tunnel to join French president, Francois Mitterand in Calais for the official launch.

The return leg brought them both to Folkestone on board a Le Shuttle train for a similar ceremony with regular services linking London, Kent, Lille and Paris launching later that year. The first freight services started in June 1994.

It was not the end of investment in transport infrastructure with the Channel Tunnel Rail Link delivering fast international connections between Ashford and Ebbsfleet in Kent, the Olympic site at Stratford and London St Pancras.

Franchise holder, Southeastern would also deliver a network of faster domestic services using the link – later rebranded High Speed One – bringing Kent and the capital even closer. Today it is possible to get to and from St Pancras International in 17 minutes via Dartford, 36 minutes via Rochester and 38 minutes via Ashford.  The Kent coast is now just an hour away.  Billions of pounds of investment that started with the Channel Tunnel 30 years ago, transforming the county’s connectivity and reputation as a place to invest.

Catherine Igoe, Locate in Kent, said: “The Channel Tunnel is one of the biggest engineering projects ever undertaken in the UK – and the longest undersea tunnel in the world.

“In the 30 years since its official opening in 1994, the tunnel has continued to make a significant contribution to the strategic importance of Kent as the UK’s gateway to Europe.

“It has played a pivotal role in bringing jobs, investment and tourism to the region with a fifth of all goods traded between the UK and Europe, worth £122billion, now passing through this vital 25-mile link per year.  That equates to 450 million tonnes of freight transported through the Channel Tunnel since 1994.”

“With massive investment at the Port of Dover and the continued success of Le Shuttle, the county is rightly considered amongst the best located regions in the county.

“We of course will continue to press the case for Eurostar or another operator to recognise the value of restoring stopping services in the county so that the full potential of what the Channel Tunnel can deliver is restored.”

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