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Fire service strike sets up UK tunnels shutdown

TUNNEL OPERATORS were preparing to shut down road routes and suspend maintenance work as the threat of nationwide fire strikes loomed this week.

The Clyde Tunnel in Glasgow is to shut to heavy goods vehicles during strike action after a decision by Glasgow City Council's emergency committee.

Only council gritters and Army 'Green Goddess' fire tenders will be allowed in the tunnel.

The firefighters national pay strike is due to begin on Tuesday for two days, escalating into a series of eight day strikes in the run up to Christmas.

Glasgow City Council took the decision to re-route HGVs around the tunnel during the strike as a precaution.

Mersey Tunnels chief engineer Peter Arch said that routine all-year-round maintenance activities which could increase fire risk would be postponed during strike periods.

'We will be deferring any work which could increase fire risk during periods where there is less cover, ' said Arch.

He added that tunnel operators had all been in contact with each other to discuss the implications of the strike. He said that the two Mersey tunnels' own police force dealt with the 'one or two' fire incidents which occur during the year.

Tyne Tunnel manager Peter Hedley said that all maintenance work scheduled to take place during strike periods had been cancelled. Only any emergency repairs would be carried out.

The tunnel has five vehicles equipped with fire fighting equipment. Extra training had been given to staff and more personnel will be on duty.

The Channel Tunnel is jointly covered by Kent and French firefighters and French teams will continue to work.

A Eurotunnel spokesman said that train crews formed the first response teams to evacuate passengers if fire occurs, and that these had been given extra training.

Transport for London which runs the capital's roads said it had no plans to close the Blackwall and Rotherhithe tunnels under the Thames or Limehouse Link tunnel.

'It is not our intention to close any tunnels, although we may have to alter traffic flows to avoid collisions, ' she said.

Operation Fresco

Operation Fresco is the name given to the use of the army as replacement for the fire service during strikes. This is being coordinated by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Green Goddesses are fire engines built on a 50 year old Bedford S chassis.

There will be 827 of the 8.4t Green Goddesses available - manned by 10,000 soldiers from across the three Armed Forces.

Although much older than today's fire engines and capable of reaching only 80km/h the government owned and maintained Green Goddesses have an advantage in cross-country situations, as they have four-wheel drive.

Over 330 separate army specialist, breathing apparatus rescue teams have been trained to enter smoke filled buildings and to deal with road traffic accidents.

Fifty nine rescue support teams have specialised equipment and skills. Each will be deployed in modern vans with police escort.

ln total, 19,000 personnel may be used, compared to the 33,000 full time fire fighters in England and Wales.

The fire service's 3,000 modern fire engines can travel at up to 115km/h and carry 66% more water. They have extra specialist kit, more ladders and longer hoses.

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