Page last updated at 11:39 GMT, Thursday, 6 May 2004 12:39 UK

Tunnel commuter's work-life idyll

By Tanya Gupta
BBC News Online, South East

Graham Easby
Mr Easby bought a five-bedroom French house for 80,000

Ten years after the Chunnel first opened, one cross-Channel commuter says he uses the service "like most people use a bus".

Graham Easby and his family gave up England for France and he says nothing would persuade him to move back.

The road infrastructure in France is just one example he gives of a different approach to life to be found on the Continent.

"There are no wagons at the weekend," he said.

Continental culture

"You know what the M25 is like at a weekend - you get 20,000 other people doing the same thing. In France, the articulated lorries have to pull over on Friday evenings.

"On the Continent, work is something which gives you money to help you live - they don't live to work."

A manager with Canon UK, based in Reigate, Surrey, where he has been for 20 years, Mr Easby found his French house four years ago on the internet.

French house
Home is now in the Pas de Calais region for the Easby family

He and his wife moved into a five-bedroom house with one and a quarter acres of land, in the village of Herly in the Pas de Calais region, which he said would cost over 1m in Surrey.

The French house cost 80,000 and Mr Easby says it is now worth 175,000 in France.

His two children, aged 10 and 12, are now at a French school where they are already multi-lingual, travel on school buses and their two-hour school dinner breaks include a three-course lunch.

Living in a village where they found friends, open space and large houses in a rural area, Mr Easby says the family never worries about traffic, safety or crime - or the cost of living in an area where he says it is 20% cheaper to live

And he enjoys his two-and-a-half hour weekly commute which brings him through the Channel Tunnel.

Commute 'routine'

Mr Easby pays a commuter discount fare and stays in a hotel when he is working in Surrey, but with friends and family when he is at meetings in the north of England.

At first Mr Easby travelled on the ferries, keeping a car on each side of the Channel, but then opted for the speed of the train.

"It takes 35 minutes, not 90 minutes," he said.

French garden
The garden and the office are on either side of the English Channel

"It's a routine. I make coffee and a sandwich to take with me.

"I don't go shopping at the Eurotunnel shops, because I go to my local French supermarket - I use the Chunnel like most people use a bus.

"Commuters are on a special list and they take a picture of the car registration every time you go.

"It takes five minutes. You're lined up for 10 minutes and then you're on the train and away."

He said tests are carried out routinely on his car to check he is not smuggling drugs, when a hi-tech device is used to test both the steering wheel and the vehicle itself.

The 45-year-old has been a Chunnel commuter for three years, but still sees the tunnel as an engineering marvel.

I always like coming home - and I know when I get on the road that I'm coming home - but I don't dislike going to London
Graham Easby

"It's built on the same principles as the London underground, only this was by a machine and that was by men," he said.

"I think it's absolutely brilliant.

"From the tunnel's point of view, if they reduced prices they could clean up."

And Mr Easby is certain that he would not move back.

"There's nothing wrong with England," he said.

"It provides my living and my lifestyle, but it's an over-boisterous and over-zealous environment and it doesn't provide me with anything I want to continue with in the future.

"I always like coming home - and I know when I get on the road that I'm coming home - but I don't dislike going to London."

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