Channel tunnel to remain closed through the weekend

The Channel Tunnel between France and England will remain closed throughout the weekend as unseasonably cold weather continues to cause travel headaches across northwestern Europe.

More than two thousand passengers were stranded in the Channel Tunnel for up to 16 hours on Friday when five Eurostar trains had electrical malfunctions. Thousands more were stuck on either side of the tunnel with no way to get across. The problem is being blamed on the temperature differences between the cold conditions outside and the warm air inside the tunnel.

A few Eurostar trains did go through the tunnel this weekend but two showed symptoms of the same problems as those on Friday. Eurostar says there is no guarantee that trains will be running on Monday since they have yet to determine the exact nature of the problem and how to fix it.

Passengers who suffered delays are being offered a refund, £150 compensation and a free return ticket.

Thousands trapped in Channel Tunnel

More than two thousand passengers were trapped in the Channel Tunnel last night when unusually cold weather in northern France made four Eurostar trains break down at the same time.

Four trains coming from Brussels and Paris entered the tunnel between France and England and promptly broke down because of the temperature change between the cold air in France and the warm air inside the tunnel.

Some passengers were evacuated after a few hours, but others had to spend all night in the tunnel. The blockage caused a huge traffic jam of cars on either side of the tunnel.

Eurostar has warned that services will remain severely disrupted throughout the weekend and that passengers should seek alternative ways to get to their destination. Eurostar has apologized for the delays and has offered refunds. It’s also considering compensation.

But the trouble doesn’t stop there. Heavy snowfall and unseasonably cold temperatures have disrupted travel in many parts of England and Scotland. Drivers are being turned away from the Channel Tunnel and being warned not to drive on the M20 near Folkstone or Dover. The Port of Calais in France is also closed.

Want to illegally enter the UK? Hide under a border police bus!

An illegal immigrant managed to sneak into the United Kingdom last week by hiding under a bus taking the channel tunnel.

This probably happens 100′s of times a week, and most of the immigrants get caught. What made this story interesting was not that this illegal alien picked a bus, but what the bus was being used for.

Instead of a bus full of tourists heading back home, this guy managed to pick a busload of UK border protection agents. A pre-departure check did not spot the stowaway, as he managed to hide next to the fuel tank.

When the bus arrived in Folksestone, the immigrant sprinted off, and even a bus load of border cops couldn’t catch him.

Illegal immigration into the UK is a huge problem, the large number of trucks and other vehicles making the crossing doesn’t make things easier – immigrants hang on to speeding freight trains, hide under cars and climb inside trucks to hide between their cargo.

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The World’s Longest Tunnels

The Gotthard Base Tunnel (map), a railway tunnel in Switzerland, isn’t complete yet, but in 2015 — after 22 years of construction — it will be the longest transportation tunnel in the world, running 35 miles through the Swiss Alps. It will eventually cut the travel time between Zürich and Milan from 3.5 hours to 2.5. Four tunnel boring machines are working the job: “2 southbound from Amsteg to Sedrun, 2 northbound from Bodio to Faido and Sedrun,” according to Wikipedia. The machines cut away at the rock at a rate of 100 feet per day in optimal conditions. That explains the 22 years of construction!

The Seikan Tunnel in Japan is the current world record holder, clocking in at 33.49 miles. Almost half of the length runs under the Tsugaru Strait, which connects the island of Honshū to Hokkaidō in northern Japan, and bridges the Sea of Japan with the Pacific Ocean. The tunnel opened on March 13, 1988, after 17 years of construction. Two stations are located in the tunnel: Tappi-Kaitei Station and Yoshioka-Kaitei Station, both of which were the first train stations in the world built under the sea. Yoshioka-Kaitei has since been demolished to make way for the Hokkaido Shinkansen project, which will eventually facilitate high-speed trains in the Seikan.

The Channel Tunnel, or Chunnel (map), linking the United Kingdom and France under the English Channel, takes the second (completed) spot at 31 miles long. While it’s a few miles shorter than the Seikan Tunnel, the Chunnel’s underwater segment is longer than that of the Seikan, making it the world’s longest underwater tunnel. The construction took 13 7 years, from 1987 to 1994, with over 13,000 workers involved in construction. Eleven tunnel boring machines were used — 6 on the English side, and 5 on the French side — and the sides met on December 1, 1990. 8.2-million passengers traveled the Chunnel via Eurostar in 2005, and numbers are expected to grow even larger when the Channel Tunnel Rail Link extends to London later this year. When the link is completed, a train trip from London to Paris will take 2 hours and 15 minutes.

The Lötschberg Base Tunnel in Switzerland runs 21.5 miles from Frutigen, Berne to Raron, Valais. When it opens in December of 2007, it will be the longest land tunnel in the world until the Gotthard Base Tunnel opens in 2015. “To dig the Loetschberg, some 16 tons of explosives were used and enough rock was excavated to pack a freight train 2,500 miles long – stretching across Europe from Lisbon, Portugal, to Helsinki, Finland,” according to this report from MSNBC.

Eurostar Rolls On

For those of you fellow train lovers, here’s a bit of news. The awesome London-to-Paris Chunnel train, the Eurostar, is moving next year from its home at Waterloo station to the St. Pancras station.

This train is nothing to sneeze at: central London to central Paris in under 3 hours, in quiet, smooth high-speed (186 mph max speed!) luxury, through the Chunnel, for as little as 29.50 pounds ($58USD).

Apparently, the tracks to Waterloo aren’t modern enough to handle better speeds, severely slowing the train as it rolls into London, so they’re moving the terminus to another station, northwest of London.

In November next year, renovations to London’s St. Pancras station will be complete, allowing eight trains to sit side-by-side in a modern new station. Trip time will drop by a half hour or more. And the St. Pancras/Kings Cross station is pretty centrally located, and on the Circle Line Tube.

Some folks aren’t too happy, though. After all, Waterloo is placed well for those south of the center, and those working at Parliament.