30 years of the Channel Tunnel: Johnny Depp, python, caimans and cyclists… the most unlikely passengers on the Eurotunnel

30 years of the Channel Tunnel: Johnny Depp, python, caimans and cyclists… the most unlikely passengers on the Eurotunnel

Le tunnel sous la Manche fête ses 30 ans. France Bleu Nord – Stephane Barbereau

In thirty years of its existence, the Channel Tunnel, which blows out its candles this Monday, May 6, has seen 500 million passengers pass through, but some have been more incongruous than simple tourists or workers.

This Monday, May 6, the Channel Tunnel, Eurotunnel now named GetLink, celebrates its thirtieth candle since its inauguration in 1994, in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II of England and François Mitterrand.

We know of anecdotes from the tunnel that stood out because of the media coverage they received. This is particularly the case when in 2015, migrants attempted to cross to England via the tunnel, or when in 2022, hundreds of passengers found themselves stuck in the tunnel, forced to be evacuated via a safety route on foot.

But in thirty years, unusual passengers have also traveled the fifty kilometers that connect France to England.

Johnny Depp stranded in Calais

In May 2016, a Eurostar which was to connect Paris to London by crossing the Channel found itself blocked in Calais due to the triggering of a fire alarm. 480 passengers had to wait for a shuttle to reach England. Among them was Johnny Depp. The actor also made the journey by train, reported at the time La Voix du NordAn anecdote which must have marked the latecomers.

Crossing the tunnel by car

For the first time, a car drove through the Channel Tunnel in, driven by John Surtees, former F1 world champion. No speed performance that day, but an unusual crossing at 50 km/h maximum, for charity, brought in Auto Plus at the time of the event.

Pythons, caimans and hedgehogs

While it is possible to cross the Channel with dogs and cats, less common pets can use the tunnel provided they provide proof. This is what a driver checked by customs officers did not do in 2013. This British national had several protected species on board: chameleons, yellow and blue frogs, but also six pythons , a boa, ten caimans or even ten white hedgehogs were in the vehicle, then indicated France 3.

Chris Froome cycling under the Channel

He is not the first cyclist to go to the Channel Tunnel but the first to make the crossing. In 1994, the year the tunnel was inaugurated, a cycling challenge was organized there. But in 2014, Chris Froome, the reigning Tour de France champion, became the first man to reach France by bike from the United Kingdom, via the Channel Tunnel, on Monday July 7. He described the experience as "unreal", AFP reported at the time.

Runners in the tunnel

In 2014 and 2019, on the occasion of the 20th and 25th years of the tunnel, the company managing the tunnel offered its employees to finally explore the tunnel for which they get up in the morning. A running race was thus organized in part of the service tunnel, between two railway galleries. 94 runners participated, English and French equally, and they were able to choose between courses of 25, 12, 5 or 6 km, indicated France 3.

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