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British, French Link Up Under English Channel

October 30, 1990|From Times Wire Services

LONDON — British and French engineers digging a tunnel under the English Channel today made a historic link between Britain and the Continent to determine whether their giant boring machines are on course.

Workers connected the two halves of a rail tunnel with a narrow, 2-inch probe, the French news agency Agence France-Presse reported.

The agency cited officials with Eurotunnel, the Anglo-French consortium building the ambitious $15-billion Channel Tunnel, as saying British workers sent the probe through to French colleagues.

The metal probe pushed through the 2-inch hole will determine whether the boring machines will meet or miss in the chalk marl.

Earlier, British workers said the pilot hole would be big enough to give them "a whiff of garlic." French radio said "Britain will no longer be an island" after the breakthrough.

The tiny connection will be a 200-year-old engineering dream come true and an important step toward the scheduled 1993 opening of the "Chunnel" rail link.

There will be three parallel tunnels. Two will carry trains, some of which will shuttle cars and trucks, and the third will be a service tunnel.

French radio said British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and French President Francois Mitterrand would shake hands in the completed service tunnel on Jan. 26.

A Eurotunnel spokesman at Sangatte, near the French port of Calais, said the probe would give engineers enough distance to compensate for a maximum margin of error of 20 inches.

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