People will be able to walk between England and France when a thin wall of chalk is knocked down Saturday in the tunnel beneath the English Channel.
Two workers - one British, the other French - are scheduled to shake hands at midday in a historic encounter that French television plans to broadcast live across much of Europe."The geography of the planet will no longer be quite the same," the French newspaper Le Figaro said Friday. "After more than two centuries of proposals, then five years of financial crises, doubts and debates . . . the famous tunnel under the channel will finally become a reality."
Philippe Cozette, a 37-year-old foreman with two years' service in the tunnel, has been chosen as France's handshaker. As of late Friday, the name of his British counterpart - to be chosen by lot - had not been released.
British authorities said police, customs and immigration officers will be empowered as of Saturday to make random checks on workers and visitors emerging from the tunnel. The tunnel's exit will become a border post, subject to various laws aimed at deterring terrorism and drug smuggling.
"It must be recognized that in 1989, almost half the drugs seized in the United Kingdom arrived from Europe," a British customs official said. "The tunnel is therefore seen as a potential route for drug-smuggling."
The rendezvous comes a month after the first linkup, on Oct. 30, when workmen bored a hole about the diameter of a garden hose through the last 100 yards of chalk in the service tunnel. The purpose was to help align the French and English sections.