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Call to ban lorries from Channel Tunnel until fire cause is known

Lorries should be banned from the Channel Tunnel until the cause of the 11 September fire has been ascertained, Rail Freight Group (RFG) chairman Lord Berkeley said this week.

"It would be prudent to ban lorries until the cause of the fire has been established," he said. Berkeley said it was "pathetic" that the public would have to wait a whole year for a report into the fire’s causes.

Speaking in the House of Lords on Monday, Berkeley asked the government’s newly appointed "infrastructure guru" Lord Adonis to review the safety regulations applying to road freight in the Channel Tunnel.

"Is he [Adonis] aware that this is the second major fire that has occurred since the tunnel opened?" asked Berkeley. "I believe that in both cases a large length of the tunnel lining was burnt out and collapsed, which means that the sea-bed is standing up on its own. Luckily, nobody was hurt on this occasion.

"My noble friend will be aware that services have been disrupted, and probably will be for many months. Is there an argument for taking precautionary measures to ensure that this does not happen again in the interim and that the carriage of trucks is either restricted or banned until the existing study is completed?"

During the Lords debate Adonis also confirmed that the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority was not expected to submit a report on the fire in the north bore of the tunnel until September next year.

Richard Clifton, the head of the UK delegation to the binational Channel Tunnel Safety Authority said that it was likely that specialist contractors were already working on a programme of works for the removal of the rest of the wagons and the reinstatement of the tunnel lining.

Eurotunnel was unavailable for comment as NCE went to press.

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