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Eurotunnel celebrates 20th anniversary

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

London/Paris, May 6 (EFE).- The Eurotunnel, the railway tunnel that links Britain to continental Europe, celebrated the 20th anniversary of its opening on Tuesday.

The tunnel, which runs under the English Channel, was inaugurated on May 6, 1994, by former French President François Mitterrand and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

Some 13,000 people worked on the project, using 11 enormous boring machines that went up to 100 meters (327 feet) under the channel to build the tunnel.

Queen Elizabeth II boarded a train at London's Waterloo station on the tunnel's inauguration day to go get Mitterrand, who was waiting for her at the Gard du Nord station in Paris.

The two heads of state shook hands and then rode back together under the Eurotunnel to the British capital.

The tunnel is 50 kilometers (31 miles) long, with 38 kilometers (23 miles) running completely underwater, making it the longest underwater tunnel in the world and one of the biggest public works projects of the 20th century.

People began dreaming of building a tunnel to link Britain to the continent in the 19th century, but it was not until after World War II that the idea gained momentum.

The Channel Tunnel Study Group was formed in 1957 and presented the British and French governments with a plan to build the link.

Mitterand and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher announced in 1986 that the EuroTunnel Group would manage the project.

Construction started in the late 1980s and British and French workers met up in the tunnel and shook hands on Dec. 1, 1990.

The Eurotunnel hit some financial bumps along the way and did not get its finances in order until 2007.

The tunnel is now a viable business that "increased its revenues by 12 percent, compared to the previous year," in 2013, Eurotunnel president Jacques Gounon said in January.

Trains carried more than 20 million passengers through the channel tunnel, or "Chunnel," last year.

Some 400 trains use the tunnel each day to cross under the English Channel, carrying an average of 50,000 passengers, 6,000 automobiles, 180 buses and 54,000 tons of freight.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/agencia-efe/140506/eurotunnel-celebrates-20th-anniversary