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tunnel update


kimg

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A fire-damaged freight train has been driven out of the French end of the Channel Tunnel at a walking pace.

Several destroyed lorries and vans were on board, but the second half of the train with more trucks on board is still to be removed by Eurotunnel.

In all, 27 vehicles were destroyed and several drivers needed treatment for smoke inhalation following the blaze on 11 September.

Eurotunnel says it will be some months before services return to normal.

A spokesman for the operator of the Channel Tunnel said it would not take as long to repair and fully reopen the tunnel as it did after a fire in 1996.

Five of the six sections of the tunnel damaged by the fire in the north tunnel have now reopened and rail traffic is increasing.

It is not yet known what caused the fire, but French officials say the blaze was near a lorry carrying chemicals.

Thirty-two people on a lorry shuttle service were led to safety after the fire. Fourteen were treated for minor injuries, including smoke inhalation.

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[quote user="kimg"]

Five of the six sections of the tunnel damaged by the fire in the north tunnel have now reopened and rail traffic is increasing.

[/quote]

Surely you cannot open a tunnel or increase traffic unless six out of six sections are open, its not like you can make a right turn and use the bits that are open?[8-)]

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The Channel Tunnel system comprises two running tunnels, one towards France and one towards England.

At approximately one third of the way from each of the tunnel portals is a crossover which allows a train running in one tunnel to be diverted into the other tunnel. Thus, for each tunnel there is a running section, crossover, running section, crossover, running section. In each tunnel there are three running sections hence six running sections altogether.

If, say, the middle section of the France bound tunnel is closed, a train will run from England in the usual tunnel, at the crossover change to the other tunnel running in the "wrong" direction to the next crossover and then be directed into the "correct" tunnel.

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Seeing the pictures of the extracted train it was striking that although the actual lorries were destroyed the structure of the train carriages was intact - so the fire couldn't have been so fierce as on the previous occasion. They were also still on the rails and capable of being towed out.

The TV report I saw also mentioned that the lorry drivers who broke out of the passenger carriage before the staff opened the doors were jumping the gun as they should have waited for the tunnel's fan system to drive the smoke backwards. But I suppose in those circumstances you just want to get out asap.

One thing that does concern me is that all the press talk is centred on the safety of the tunnel itself, when it seems that's what rather more alarming is the propensity for lorries to catch fire. It's frightening to think what would happen if such an occurrence took place in the Dartford tunnel, where traffic is regularly at a standstill. No escape routes there apart from running away to the tunnel mouth.

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Thanks Alane. I have learned a lot about a service I use all the time!

I hadn't seen the pix before and someone told me the carriages had been 'destroyed' but now I can see that they clearly didn't know what freight carriages actually look like! ChrisB, thanks as well - your observations are spot-on.

Feel a lot more optimistic about my 30 October crossing - they should be more upfront with this sort of info!

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[quote user="chrisb"]

when it seems that's what rather more alarming is the propensity for lorries to catch fire.

[/quote]

A friend in the haulage business (sorry, it's logistics these days isn't it) has told me that fires in poorly maintained trucks are far too common (fast movement in long tunnels exasperates the problem). I want to know why the truck wagons are not sealed and fire protected like those for cars and buses. Surely the cost would be less than the cost of 2 major fires (although I suppose that "our" share of the fire costs, as people paying insurance companies, is less than would be added to the cost of tickets to cover the cost of constructing fire proof wagons).

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John

because putting a roof on the wagon that was high enought to cover all types of trucks that are carried would put it too close to the overhead 25000V catenary.

 

Those who have fears about tunnel safety should consider that after two very serious fires in the Channel tunnel no one has suffered any serious injury - not so with Mt Blanc, St Gotthard and quite a number of other road tunnels.

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For those with bookings coming up my experience.

I was booked on the 05:54 Folkestone to Calais service on the 17th October. Received an email that it would now be 06:05 so no problem.

This Saturday 'developed' a need to take a trailer. 'Sorry, the 06:05 is full but can get you on the 04:35'.

Have had to change times before, prior to the fire when I have wanted to add a trailer.

My experience is that it is virtually business as normal.

Paul

 

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We are going out on the 15th October and had booked an 08:05 crosssing, they have put us back to 09:05 which now puts us an hour later for arrival in Charente Maritime!!! We have tried to contact them but can't get through, no reply to our emails either so we will have to make do I suppose and just arrive very late at destination!
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Had an email today with revised crossing times,25th Oct out was 04.20 now 04.35, no probs there. Coming back on 2nd Nov was 13.50 now 20.37, slight problem there so rang them and the closest to my original time is 18.59.

It would appear that things aren't quite getting back to normal just yet, but well on the way.

There is no charge at the moment for the different frequent travellere time bands either, as one might expect.

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[quote user="goose"]We are going out on the 15th October and had booked an 08:05 crosssing, they have put us back to 09:05 which now puts us an hour later for arrival in Charente Maritime!!! We have tried to contact them but can't get through, no reply to our emails either so we will have to make do I suppose and just arrive very late at destination![/quote]

We too were booked on the 08.05 on the 13th and have been put forward half an hour. Means we have to get up that bit earlier - but on the other hand that's an extra 30 minutes in France!

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[quote user="goose"]We are going out on the 15th October and had booked an 08:05 crosssing, they have put us back to 09:05 which now puts us an hour later for arrival in Charente Maritime!!! We have tried to contact them but can't get through, no reply to our emails either so we will have to make do I suppose and just arrive very late at destination![/quote]

When I added the trailer I phoned once and got a message saying 'we are busy please call again later', immediately phoned again and got in a queue. Eventually answered and made the change. I dare say they are fairly busy.

Do the same and ask for an earlier booking or cancel and go by ferry which will take a lot longer.

Paul

 

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[quote user="JohnM"]

Are the big ones the norm or the exception? How about roofing at a reasonable height and sending the big ones on a ferry?

[/quote]

 

The problem is that there is no "norm".  There already is a height restriction in the tunnel and anything higher has to go by another route - but in practise bridge heights either side of the channel would block most over-sized trucks or demand special routes. 

 

Many hauliers tend to specialise with particular industries and each will have different requirements.  So if you are hauling steel sheet and profile, height is not likely to be an issue (you go overweight long before you go over height) and neither is weather protection, but you may need special framing to get overwide loads on the truck (and then height may come back into the equation).

If on the other hand you are transporting something very light (low density) like sheets of Polystyrene insulation, you will not go overweight and you want to max out the volume on the truck.  Width and normal lengths are set in legislation so the only way is up (and down - these trucks often have small diameter trailer wheels to lower the load deck).

 

Even things you might think are standardised are not as standardised as you expect - ISO containers (ISO= International Standards Organisation) aka shipping containers, are standardised in the norms to be 20ft long, 30ft long or 40ft long.  The width is set at 8ft.  The standard actually sets where the "corner" support posts are.   Despite the norms there are a number of variants - for example 45 ft containers that meet the 40ft norm.  Containers that are actually wider than 8ft and are designed to that the verticle ribs interlock to give an effectoive 8ft footprint when stacked togther on a ship or quayside.  Most importantly although the width and length are normed, the height is not.  The vast majority are 8ft high, but the 30ft-ers in particluar come in all range of sizes from 8ft to 9ft 6in.

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Tried to phone them and like the others got put into a queue so sent an email and 2 days later we have a revised time of 07:35 so we are on track for an earlier arrival in Meschers.  It was such a relief to have the revised time, I know it is early but we had planned it that way and are staying in Ashford the night before for an early start. Can't wait to go now, must do some packing !!!
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Sorry folks but as long as I have a hole in my bum that points downwards you woud not get me in that tunnel. As has been said there have been no deaths YET! But a lot of the safety recomendations have not been implemented. I can swim and would rather drown than go in that tunnel.

I have been through the Mont Blanc tunnel, both ways, before that big fire, and I didn't like that ether and wouldn't go that way ever again.

Someone also said about deaths in tunnlels and ferries in Europe and so far the tunnels win. Not by much over the last couple of decades, but ferries have killed less people than tunnels!

I have one BIG advantage now. I live here and don't want to go to England whereas I used to want to came to France when I lived in England [:D]

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I have to say that logic tells me it's not nearly as safe as it could be. For starters, letting people stand about, unrestrained, in a tube travelling at over 100mph, or whatever is barmy. The original plan was to get everyone belted up but they dumped that on cost/inconvenience grounds. If that thing stops suddenly, anyone standing outside their car is going to be plastered over the next partition wall.

I haven't used it recently, purely on cost grounds. But would do so, despite the risks.  Just as I still travel at speed down a motorway, knowing that the combined impact speed of someone crossing the central reservation into my path could be 140mph. It happens, despite the armco barrier.

Life's a risk.

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