LONDON - The Channel Tunnel will be closed indefinitely for major reinforcement, Eurotunnel operators announced today. Eurotunnel engineers said the work is necessary to prevent foreseeable damage to the "Chunnel," as it was once popularly known, from exceptionally heavy traffic. The increased Tunnel load is predicted because of higher London congestion fees leading to a larger number of overweight vehicles overloaded with overweight passengers heading to France to shop.
It is a perfect vehicular storm: Carfull Tunnel Syndrome, one transportation engineer calls it.
"As London Mayor Ken Livingstone's plan to punish SUV drivers by tripling (to 25 pounds) their daily congestion charge for parking in the city center converges with the nascent Christmas shopping season, combines with effects of holiday dinners and all-you-can-eat buffets, then add to it the gross vehicle weight of the SUVs themselves -- and you have a Channel Tunnel groaning and cracking under the burden," said Nigel Smithies, a transportation analyst with Environmental Transportation Systems, Ltd.
Under the influence of American eating and driving habits, shoppers from the outskirts of London, as well as innately fat American tourists, are driving larger and larger vehicles to contain their larger and larger girths. With the proposed 25 pound ($47.43) daily congestion fee, many shoppers driving SUVs have decided to go to France to spend their money.
Tourist-oriented businesses and gift shoppes in Folkestone and especially Calais have seen a noticeable pick up in trade since Livingstone announced his proposed hike in daily SUV charges.
The superiority of French cuisine over what Americans call "Brit vittles" is another factor in the uptick in Tunnel traffic.
"Even though them Euros ain't worth half a pound, them Frogs can make up some right interestin' food. English food, it tastes just like what Mama used to make -- and she couldn't cook for diddly-squat," said Clarence Baumgartner of Johnson City, Tennessee.
Baumgartner said he "come to England to swack a few golf balls and get drunk in a pub," ended up spending much of his holiday "gettin' sauced on vino with a couple of nice French sailors."
Baumgartner said Calais was just about as far as he needed to go to see all he wanted of France.
Language, said Baumgartner, was a barrier, but not as big as he anticipated. "Most all Frenchies speak American but with some kinda accent. But to tell the truth, it ain't half as bad as those Brits. I can barely understand none of them."
Although Eurotunnel operators can not say with certainty when the reinforcement work will be complete, French Eurotunnel engineers said they are certain that the Tunnel will not be open until after Christmas.
The Channel Tunnel (le tunnel sous la Manche), which was completed in 1994, is a rail tunnel 31 miles (50.5 km) long running beneath the English Channel at the Straits of Dover, connecting Folkestone, Kent in England to Coquelles near Calais in northern France. The undersea section of the Tunnel of 24 miles (39 km) is the longest in the world.
Copyright 2006 Douglas Salguod