On this day - December 1st

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Linking Britain and France by tunnel, a dream since at least 1802 became a reality on December 1 1990 when an Englishman crossed into the French section, and a Frenchman returned the compliment. The two men squeezed through a hole enlarged since a 50mm bore-hole had broken through on October 30.

Work on the project (which was not the first effort to get underway of course) had begun on December 17 1988 , and it would be another four years after the breakthrough before all the tunnel and track construction would be completed, the official opening coming on May 6 1994. But with the crossing of Graham Fagg and Phillippe Cozette some 40m beneath the seabed off Folkestone we had at last been given a practical demonstration of what the tunnel would mean.

The Channel Tunnel was and is an engineering marvel, and has made a significant change to freight and passenger transport to and from this country — the continent can no longer be cut off by fog in the Straits of Dover . It is in some ways a major green measure, travel now between Paris and London simpler and often quicker point-to-point by train than plane, with less environmental impact. But it would be straining reality to call it a financial success, given the estimated cost was £2.6 billion, and the actual came in £2 billion over that.

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First we had the Entente Cordiale, then jeux sans frontiers, then Concorde and then the Channel Tunnel. Now we have Brexit — is it really true that humanity gets wiser as time goes by?

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