The Continent starts here: at Junction 11a on the M20 motorists will be siphoned off at the Eurotunnel exit. At 6pm on a Friday evening, however, the traffic will probably be moving rather less freely.

There will be no advance booking for 'Le Shuttle'. Modelled on the moving queue system used on ferry services between Denmark and Sweden, cars will be allocated a place on the next departing service.

It will be possible to buy in advance from a travel agency a pre-paid voucher that can be exchanged for a ticket, but most people will pay by credit, cash or cheque when they arrive at the terminal.

British and French passport checks will both be carried out at the Folkstone end of the Tunnel. The British have retained the right to look at passports but drivers will probably be waved through.

Drivers will be able to head straight for the next Shuttle or stop at the terminal for a meal or for some duty-free shopping, a perk that will continue to be available until at least 1999.

As they arrive, cars will be directed to the next departing Shuttle, where they will be accommodated on double-deck wagons. Lorries and coaches will be separated to travel in single-deck wagons.

Eurotunnel has designed the loading process to be as quick and simple as possible: motorists will drive themselves on to the Shuttle wagons and stay with their cars for the Channel crossing.

Passengers will not be not stuck in their cars; they will be able to get out and stretch their legs, though there will be no facilities except lavatories. Electronic signs will announce how far there is to go.

Arrival in France: with no further checks to complete, motorists will simply drive off the train and on to the motorway. By the time the tunnel opens, there will be a motorway to Rouen as well as Paris.

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