Channel Tunnel

Channel Tunnel, Kent (c) Webb Aviation

Britain from the Air - Channel Tunnel

One estimate suggests that within 10 years more than 1.5 million people will work in Britain and live in another country.

Many of us take international travel for granted, whether for work or pleasure. Thanks to the low cost airlines and package holidays, air travel is now affordable for almost everyone and we have not been slow in taking advantage of it.

The estimated 1.5 million international work commuters predicted by 2020 is tiny compared with the 200 million passengers that use UK airports every year. A generation earlier, in 1957, it was just 7 million. And government mid level estimates for 2030 expect airports in the south-east to be over capacity.

The environmental impact is enormous, both locally on residents and globally on our climate. In contrast, the Channel Tunnel and its high speed connections offer a more sustainable way of visiting other parts of Europe.

The railway debate

Rail is more environmentally friendly and sustainable than any other form of mass transport. In Britain it can also be expensive and very crowded. So, should we invest in improving our network? We continue to think about developing a high speed rail network, similar to the TGV in France, weighing up the costs and the benefits it may bring to the economy, to jobs, to reducing the number of car journeys. 

Protesters argue that it will have a negative impact on those towns where the trains do not stop and will spoil the countryside around it. Other countries with high speed rail have found it helps the environment by dissuading people from using cars and planes.


Citizens in countries that are members of the European Union can work and live anywhere in the EU. In recent years many of the immigrants to Britain have come from Eastern European countries. Unlike many others, Britain did not stop free movement of people from countries new to the EU. As a result some 700-800,000 people, mainly Eastern Europeans, moved here in search of work.

Many have returned to Europe during the recession though it is estimated that EU migrants have made a £5bn contribution to our economy.

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Location: Channel Tunnel, Kent, CT18 8XX
Grid reference: TR 18660 37540

Britain from the Air - Channel Tunnel credits

Thank you to -

Webb Aviation for aerial photography

Text researched and written by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

The first proposal for a tunnel under the Channel included an artificial island half-way across for changing horses