If you’re considering a trip to France, Eurotunnel must seem like the most logical choice. But is it safe? If you’re worried about train or tunnel safety, check out this article for the latest travel information and Eurotunnel safety facts.
Each year, about 17 million British nationals visit France, and a significant percentage of that number chooses Eurotunnel for their trip. The tunnel joins Coquelles outside Calais with Folkestone in Kent, and according to Get Link Group, around 21 million passengers have travelled through it in 2017 alone.
Whether you’re planning a day trip to northern France or a visit to Paris, Eurotunnel is the fastest way to cross the English Channel. It only takes 35 minutes, it’s comfortable, and it won’t cost you a whole lot of money.
The tunnel has been in operation since 1994, and up until now, there have only been 10 incidents — 7 fires and three train failures — all without serious injuries.
So from that side, it seems that it is safe to travel to France via Eurotunnel. However, we have only scratched the surface.
Eurotunnel Travel Basics
You don’t drive through the Channel Tunnel, you sit in a train, your car, or a minibus, while you’re carried to your destination. The tunnel has its own motorway exits that lead to check-ins at both ends.
* Le Shuttle or Eurostar
Le Shuttle is for people crossing with their vehicles, while the Eurostar is the high-speed train for passengers only. Eurostar trains leave from St Pancras International station in London. They take on passengers there, as well as in Ebbsfleet and Ashford in Kent. With these trains, you can go to northern France, Paris, Brussels, and other European Eurostar destinations.
You don’t always have to book in advance, but we recommend it. Booking means you are guaranteed a place and that your ticket is cheaper.
You need to arrive at least half an hour in advance so you’d have the time to check-in and go through both the British and the French frontiers and security controls.
* Travelling Through Eurotunnel
Even if you don’t really like tunnels, there’s nothing to worry about in this one. Boarding is fast, the inside of the tunnel is bright enough to allow you to forget you’re under the seabed, and the ride is fast, so you’ll be on the other side in no-time.
* You Should Also Know
You can eat on the way, but, although meals are safe, they are much alike airport duty-free — overpriced and not very tasty.
The tunnel is pet-friendly; your pet just needs to be microchipped, registered, and proven rabies-free.
You can take your bicycle through Eurotunnel, but you have to book a cycle crossing 48 hours in advance. Each Shuttle can carry 6 cyclists, so bear that in mind if you plan on going with friends.
When buying tickets, you can use special offers such as Short Stay saver, Frequent Traveller, and Flexiplus tickets to save up. You can also check the Eurotunnel Offers & Savings page to find the best deals.
How Safe Is the Channel Tunnel?
* The Security and Safety Measures
In order to go through, you will need your passport (and visa if required). If you’re going by car, you will also need proof of insurance and registration documents for your vehicle.
On the French terminal, security measures include a 40km perimeter fence, infrared detectors, CCTV cameras, and thermal detection sensors.
A buffer zone and the Eurotunnel Truck Park ensure off-motorway secure areas for drivers. Security controls are made to protect the passengers and their cargo, and they are all carried out before the crossing.
For instance, PMMW scans use passive medium waves to detect human presence inside trucks that enter the tunnel. Euroscan X-ray controls are on every terminal, and they can detect arms and explosives. There are also sniffer patrols that can inspect vehicles.
When you reach the French customs, they can also carry out normal checks in search of illegal materials.
On the other side, the UK Border Force can control passports and entry of illegal intrusions, as well as check for illicit substances.
* Conditions of Carriage
Conditions of carriage apply to all vehicles and their passengers that go through Eurotunnel, as well as commercial goods and personal belongings. So whether you choose Le Shuttle or Eurostar, you should read these conditions carefully, as they are there to ensure safety and security.
* Ventilation System Safety
The Eurotunnel has a main ventilation system and an emergency fire ventilation system, so there’s no danger of running out of air in the tunnel.
The system itself consists of fan stations. Each station has a control panel that operates at three levels. The electrical power this system uses comes from two independent grid suppliers — one domestic, as the main supply, and one French, as a backup.
The ventilation systems maintain higher air pressure in the service tunnel when compared to the rail tunnels. As a result, if there’s a fire, the smoke from the rail tunnels won’t even enter the service tunnel.
* Current State of Affairs
If you’re uncertain whether it is safe to travel to France in general at the moment, simply visit gov.uk and check Foreign travel advice section addressing France, or click on this link.
For additional travel advice and passenger information, you can check out the Eurotunnel website. Also, if you intend to cross the channel this way, you should definitely learn more about Advance Passenger Information (or API) on this link.
For most people, just knowing that necessary safety measures are in place isn’t enough. We know, we understand — we hate not knowing what will happen if the worst comes to pass.
- In case your car breaks down, you can have breakdown cover. Eurotunnel offers several affordable travel insurance plans. Among them is a European Motor Breakdown Cover that secures your vehicle throughout mainland Europe.
- If there’s a train failure, the ventilation systems will never stop working, so you don’t have to worry about air. The worst case scenario is that you’ll have to stay on the train for several hours and wait for the issue to be properly addressed.
- In case there’s a fire, departments are effectively sealed off by fire doors, monitored by cameras and Eurotunnel staff, so no one can be seriously injured. In addition to that, water-mist technology is used to ensure fast fire extinguishing.
If there’s a terrorist attack — this has never happened before due to the security detail, but in case a powerful bomb went off on one of the trains, it couldn’t result in the flooding of the tunnel.
In the End
Is it safe to travel to France via Eurotunnel? Yes, it definitely is. As you can see, according to safety authority, the Eurostar trains are safe, as is Le Shuttle, and Eurotunnel itself.
According to its history, since the opening, no passengers were seriously injured, and the worst thing that can happen when taking Eurotunnel is getting stuck in the tunnel for hours.
So no, you don’t have to worry about safety when it comes to travelling to France via Eurotunnel. What you should worry about when you get to the other side is your wallet. Believe it or not, the most common issue British nationals run into in France is pick-pocketing.
Have a safe journey!