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Channel Tunnel fire triggers safety changes

Eurotunnel this week said it had started to change its safety procedures ahead of the findings of a French judiciary report into last September’s fire.

It has amended on-board safety notices in its lorry shuttle trains to provide instructions in nine languages – seven more than the previous two languages used. "We needed to improve dialogue with hauliers to ensure standard procedures are communicated thoroughly," said Eurotunnel chief operating officer Jean-Pierre Trotignon. "It is important that they also know the proper way to deal with electrical devices such as kettles [on their trucks]."

Eurotunnel has also given on 0n-board staff extra fire procedures training. During the incident in September, passengers panicked and broke windows rather than following the procedure
to wait for the ventilation system to clear smoke from the carriage and air lock, allowing safe passage through to the service tunnel.

Eurotunnel acknowledged that poor communication with passengers was to blame, a factor which could have delayed the arrival of the fire fighters. But Eurotunnel has rejected calls to enclose the open-sided wagons which carry trucks. It has been argued that such a measure could limit the spread of fire (NCE 18 September 2008). "Enclosing the steel wagons would make them too heavy and too slow. But more importantly it has been ruled out because it would make the wagons too wide for the tunnel," said a spokeswoman.

The French Bureau d’Enquêtes sur les Accidents de Transport Terrestre is leading the investigation into the last fire. Eurotunnel is hoping to receive its report by the beginning of March.

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