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Blaze-hit Channel Tunnel train was in safe station when it lost power

The freight train that caught fire in the Channel Tunnel in January was within a sprinkler station when it lost power, an investigation has found.

The joint probe by UK and French safety bodies into the 17 January incident discovered that it was too late at that point to safely brake to a stop within the 870m-long safe station.

The safe stations, introduced after the catastrophic fire of 2008, are designed to control a fire on a stationary train. In this case the shuttle was brought to a stand next to a cross-passage 16km from the French portal to allow passengers to disembark.

Investigators said an electrical arc occurred between the train and an overhead power line, and that it is “probable” that this caused the fire, as well as tripping the power supply.

It had previously been suggested by experts that the fire could have caused the power failure.

After 26 seconds of power initially being lost, it was reinstated and the train continued its journey at reduced speed. Then two fire alarms went off before power was lost again while the shuttle was in the safe station.

The extent of the blaze was laid bare by the report.

Initially described by Eurotunnel as “smouldering cargo” and “smoke”, the fire “completely consumed two trucks… and cause damage to rolling stock, railway infrastructure and the tunnel lining” according to the investigation update from the Rail Accident and Investigation Branch and the Bureau d’Enquetes sur les Accidents de Transport Terrestre.

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