HUNDREDS OF guests packed into the Channel Tunnel Rail Link's North Downs Tunnel last week to witness the breakthrough to complete bulk excavation of the 3.2km long structure.
Deputy prime minister John Prescott held centre stage as the 600mm thick remaining wafer of chalk, decorated with tunnel contractor Eurolink Joint Venture's logo, was ripped away by the huge Paurat road-header machine.
The tunnel survey team had guided the bores to meet within 19mm of line and 15mm level - checked via a tiny hole bored through the centre of the logo painted wall of chalk.
Clearly, Prescott was impressed with what he saw and heard. After 14 months of 24 hour working, seven days a week, Britain's biggest rail tunnel was going to be completed two months ahead of schedule and £5M under the target price.
Next month casting begins on the 350mm thick permanent lining of fibre reinforced in-situ concrete. Overall, some 40% of the £1.7bn work on the 74km of CTRL section one from Folkestone to Fawkham Junction has been completed.