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Burning Channel Tunnel lorrytrains must head for fire exit

I read with interest you coverage of the recent fire in the Channel Tunnel which I thought very fair (News last week).

Much has been talked about the precautions against and the agreed responses to a fire being detected in the tunnel. I have always felt that the practice of stopping a train in the tunnel immediately a fire is detected is fundamentally wrong.

Firstly, it is so much harder to reach a fire in a tunnel to fight it and to rescue people. Secondly, the fire will inevitably damage the tunnel lining where the train stops. Thirdly, the fire will damage the overhead power lines and other services where the train stops.

The answer is to enclose the wagons. The enclosure does not need to be fire proof, just to last 30 minutes at best to allow the train to clear the tunnel and to reduce the effects of the slipstream.

If the wagons are compartmentalised, an inert gas, such as carbon dioxide, could be discharged to fight the fire. Again, these intermediate doors need only contain a fire for 30 minutes at most.
Once the train emerges from the tunnel, it could be diverted into a designated area with easy road access for the fire crews to attend.

That the Channel Tunnel will suffer another fire is as certain as night following day. We should accept that and prepare for it and not allow such an event to shut down or constrict a key artery for weeks or months at a time.

 JUDITH RASTALL (M), judith@rastall.com

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