Ten years ago this month, the Mont Blanc tunnel -- the world's longest read tunnel under Europe's highest mountain -- was officially opened to the public.
(FRENCH SIDE, 1975) GV Ment Blanc PAN TO tunnel entrance
SV Car exits from tunnel PAN TO GV car park with mountains in background
(ITALIAN SIDE, 1962) CU PAN TO GV Vehicle entering tunnel under construction and reverse of recading entrance (2 shots)
CU Water cascading into tunnel
GV & CU Men at work at rack face (3 shots)
SV Tractor passes behind cascading water and emerges along tunnel (2 shots)
CU Drill making hole for charge
CU Man removes stick of explosive from bag and places in hole (2 shots)
SV Two men retreat into hut & CU Hand detenates charge (3 shots)
SV & GV's Drilling crews greeting each other (4 shots)
(FRENCH SIDE, 1962) SV PAN Pempidou walks forwards and cuts tape in presence of Fanfani
SV PAN Driver TO specially-bedecked train
SV Pempidou with Fanfani seated in train and putting on tin hat
GTV Train moves off into tunnel
(FRENCH SIDE, 1965 SV Sign Tunnel route Ment Blanc
STV De Gaulle walks through crewd with Saragat
GTV De Gaulle Onveils plaque and CU plaque (2 shots)
STV De Gaulle cuts ribbon in presence of Saragat
GTV & PAN Presidential car enters tunnel
GVs Cars queueing to enter tunnel on opening day (2 shots)
(FRENCH SIDE, 1975) CU French police sign TILT UP TO GV Cars inspected by Customs officials
LV Cars passing through toll-gate
GV Car into tunnel
CU Multi-lingual sign "Ask for receipt" PAN TO motorist receiving receipt.
GV Cars entering tunnel PAN TO LV Mont Blanc
GV FROM INT Car as it passes from inside tunnel into daylight on Italian side
Initials EW/CD/BB/1915 BB/1825
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: Ten years ago this month, the Mont Blanc tunnel -- the world's longest read tunnel under Europe's highest mountain -- was officially opened to the public. Since that time, some seven million vehicles have passed through ... and not one single fatal accident has occurred.
The 7.5-mile (11.6-kilometre) tunnel took six years to complete ... and cost the lives of 23 French and Italian workers during its creation. It represents a miracle of engineering and technological prowess and stands as a monument to the courage and perseverance of the tunnellers.
The project -- which cost 20 million pounds sterling (48 million U.S. dollars) -- began in May 1959, when engineers from Courmayer on the Italian side and Les Pelerins, near Chamonix, on the French side of Mont Blanc began working through the miles of rock, clay and ice towards the centre. The two teams were due to meet in the summer of 1961, but serious technical delays occurred which postponed the historic link-up until August 1962.
The Italian team of human "moles" reached the union-point eleven days ahead of the French team ... and as the echoes of the final blast died away, the new tunnel resounded to the pop of champagne corks as the men who had spent so much sweat and effort celebrated their victory against the mountain.
For many of them, work on the tunnel project had meant months and years of hard labour underground in appalling and dangerous conditions. On the Italian side, the drillers worked against successive rock falls... and under a constant cascade of icy water. At one point, water at the rate of 260-gallons (1,180-litres) a second poured out as the engineers made headway against the implacable rock-face. But thanks to swift action, the flew was reduced to around 80-gallons (364-litres) a second ... a rate which the men came to accept as normal working ???ciens.
The story of the fight against the mountain was much the same on the French side. But for the Italians, one of the most bitter blows came only months before the final link-up, when in April 1962 three successive avalanches crashed down on to the Italian camp site in the Aosta Valley, killing three men and injuring thirty more.
But the tragedy was almost forgotten in the triumph of the break-through blast. And only one month later, the tunnel was ceremonially inaugurated by the French and Italian Premiers, Georges Pompidou and Amintore Fanfani. Their bumpy journey through the tunnel from the French to the Italian side by construction train was made in more comfort by President de Gaulle of France and President Saragat of Italy almost three years later when -- in July 1965 -- they officially opened the tunnel with a limousine ride through from Chamonix to Courmayer.
In the intervening years, the tunnel was widened to hold a four-lane highway and extensive safety and maintenance provisions were installed.
The tunnel -- which cuts 137 miles (220 kilometres) off the journey from Paris to Rome -- has proved a boon not only for tourist traffic but also for commercial trade. The number of trucks passing through has exceeded all expectations ... and the tunnel's increasing popularity has assured its continuing prosperity.