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RAIB to work with French authorities to investigate Eurotunnel fire

RAIB is working with the Bureau d’Enquetes sur les Accidents de Transport Terrestre (BEA-TT), the body responsible for the investigation of railway accidents in France, to jointly investigate the fire on-board a Eurotunnel shuttle that led to a week of chaos in the Channel Tunnel.

RTM reported on the extensive chaos in a week of woe for Eurotunnel. Following the fire on Saturday 17 January, there were several power supply problems forcing further closures of the tunnel, and delays and cancellations to services. The power supply problems continued throughout the week with normal service finally resuming the following Friday.

According to the RAIB investigation, on Saturday 17 January at 11.23am GMT Eurotunnel freight shuttle 7340 was travelling from England to France in the Running Tunnel North of the Channel Tunnel, when the on-board fire alarm system detected a fire, which the driver reported to the control centre. Shortly after, the control centre received a second fire alarm from a detector in the tunnel and the power supply to the overhead line was lost. Without electrical power, the driver of the shuttle made a controlled stop in the tunnel at cross-passage 4418, about 16km (10 miles) from the French portal.

All 38 passengers and three staff on board were travelling in the amenity coach, behind the leading locomotive. They were evacuated into the service tunnel through a cross-passage. By 12.35pm all other trains had exited the tunnels and firefighting operations had started. The passengers and crew of shuttle 7340 departed from the service tunnel at 1.03pm and were taken to the French terminal.

Two trucks on the shuttle caught fire and both were brought under control by 3.40pm, but it took several hours of dousing to cool the shuttle afterwards.

By 2.45am on Sunday, services were running again using the Running Tunnel South. The train that had caught fire was hauled out of the Running Tunnel North by 1.45pm on the same day.

Because the train stopped in the French section of the tunnel, the investigation will be led by BEA-TT. The joint investigation will aim to establish the sequence of events and factors that led to the fire, understand how the event was managed, and identify any safety lessons.

The RAIB and BEA-TT will publish the findings, including any recommendations to improve safety, at the conclusion of the joint investigation. The report will be published in both English and French.

(Image source: AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Grahamh   31/01/2015 at 18:33

There's something very odd here. Eurotunnel have imposed some very restrictive safety requirements for passenger stock, which has hindered development of the passenger services through the tunnel, yet allows the carriage of HGVs, statistically the most prone to incidents of this type, to travel in, effectively, open waggons with little or no fire retardant capability. Perhaps a rethink is now needed.

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