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UK tunnel safety rules rely on safe containers

IN BRITAIN, only the Severn Tunnel has special provisions for trains with hazardous cargo.

A spokesman for Railtrack said that trains carrying dangerous goods are not allowed in the 6.4km tunnel at the same time as passenger trains. No special provisions apply elsewhere on the network regarding the running of trains carrying fire-risk cargoes through tunnels.

'The Severn Tunnel is an exception because it is long.

There is no special provision for running trains with dangerous goods in tunnels - these must be safe wherever they operate on the network, either inside or outside tunnels. The fundamental point is maintaining the integrity of the containers, ' she said.

Carriage of hazardous materials through the Channel Tunnel is governed by strict rules.

'There is a restricted list of what can go into the tunnel. We have never had a dangerous goods incident in the Channel Tunnel, and a dangerous goods detection system is in place, ' said a Kent Fire Brigade spokesman.

The transport of hazardous materials on UK railways is governed by the Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail Regulations 1996. Ultimate enforcement rests with the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) while railworthiness of wagons is enforced by the Railway Inspectorate.

The worst UK incident comparable to the Baltimore fire in recent years occurred in the Summit tunnel in December 1984 when a train travelling across the Pennines carrying 13 petrol wagons derailed and caught fire.

No-one was injured but the fire raged for four days and reached temperatures of 4,500infinityC (NCE 3 January 1985). Wheel failure was blamed for the derailment.

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