Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Steps in the right direction

Posted in Europe, Great Britain, High Speed by Chairman Pip on 23 March 2010

The Channel Tunnel Intergovernmental Commission, the bi-national body that oversees the operation of the Channel Tunnel has now begun investigating whether shorter trains than the 400m long Class 373 units should be allowed to run through the tunnel. We all know about the half-unit design of the Class 373 that allows a train to split in two in the event of an emergency, with the unaffected half simply being driven out the other end of the tunnel. But, the trains are as long as they are due to the emergency evacuation exits from the running tunnels to the central service tunnel, which are spaced 375m apart. However, the Chief Executive of Eurotunnel, the tunnel’s infrastructure operator, described the difficulty of evacuating 750 people from a fully loaded train:  

Events in the Tunnel last December, when we had to evacuate 400 m trains, showed how difficult it can be to get 750 people out. Of course, this was the first time in 15 years that we have had to do that, but we are considering whether the 400 m train is appropriate.
Jacques Gounon  

It’s fair to say that evacuating a train in a tunnel will always be difficult, and the longer the train is, the more people there are to evacuate. Of course, designing Eurostar’s trains as they did was right and proper, because they were new when the tunnel opened, and nobody knew what would happen in the event of an emergency. Now though, it’s a decade and a half in, and (for the most part, last December notwithstanding) robust safety procedures have been tried and tested, and it is accepted that trains the size of the Class 373 aren’t essential for operation in the tunnel. This is one further step to opening the route up for other operators, most especially Deutsche Bahn and its ambitions to run from London to Frankfurt. I always say that competition is good for service, and Eurostar could do with competition. If, by 2012, we have DB’s Class 403 and 406 units running to St Pancras, this will be an exceptionally good thing.  


One Response

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  1. cna training said, on 4 April 2010 at 2:07 pm

    nice post. thanks.

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