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Britain and France Sign Treaty for Rail Tunnel Under Channel

February 12, 1986|United Press International

CANTERBURY, England — Britain and France signed a treaty at Canterbury Cathedral today to legally confirm their commitment to link the two nations with a privately financed rail tunnel beneath the English Channel by 1993.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and French President Francois Mitterrand looked on as their foreign ministers signed the document in the 13th-Century Chapter House of England's mother of churches.

"This is an historic treaty," Thatcher said, adding the signing "brought to the brink of fruition" a dream that has challenged generations.

Mitterrand said the treaty represents "an act of will" by both governments and added that after years of talking about a fixed link "now we are finally beginning it."

Thatcher and Mitterrand announced three weeks ago their choice of a twin-bore railway tunnel to join Britain and continental Europe. The project was budgeted at $3.3 billion, but that amount is expected to double because of inflation and interest by the time it is completed.

The 30-mile tunnel, whose British terminus is planned for a site 12 miles southeast of Canterbury at Cheriton, still needs the approval of both nations' parliaments before construction can begin in 1987.

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