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Les enquêtes techniques

Eurotunnel english report

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publié le 22 novembre 2010

On 11 September 2008, Eurotunnel freight shuttle 7412 departs from the English terminal of the Channel Tunnel at Folkestone on time (15:36 hrs ). It is carrying twenty-five lorries and two vans. The amenity coach, in which the lorry drivers are travelling, is in its normal position, immediately behind the leading locomotive.
At about 15:54 hrs, a fire is detected on board the train. The train stops just before 15:59 hrs near marker PK49, which is in the last third of the tunnel.

Of the 32 people on board the train, 28 are quickly evacuated to the service tunnel. Four passengers who had ventured into the rail tunnel are recovered a little later ; the first two at about 16:13 hrs and the last two at about 16:26 hrs.
The operations involved in the evacuation to the French terminal end at 18:44 hrs, i.e. almost 3 hours after the start of the event.
Fire-fighting operations start at 16:56 hrs. They are fully operational by 17:53 hrs and end the next day at around 12:00 hrs.

The fire did not cause any deaths or serious injuries ; 6 people with slight injuries were evacuated to hospital in Calais.
Regarding equipment, all the loaded wagons and lorries were affected by the fire. Both locomotives and the amenity coach suffered damage due to the high temperatures and smoke to which they were exposed. The North Tunnel, in which the shuttle was travelling, suffered considerable damage and could not be reopened to traffic until February 2009.

The initial cause of the fire is still not known exactly, but we suspect that a road vehicle caught fire and the fire spread to the whole of the rake. It should be noted that one of the vehicles on board had an electrical fault, resulting in it being impossible to turn off its headlights, and this vehicle was in the part of the rake where the fire appears to have started.

The investigation by the two French and UK organizations (BEA-TT and RAIB) was performed jointly, in accordance with the agreement between them. It mainly concerns the performance of the evacuation and fire-fighting operations, with particular attention paid to any factors that might have made these operations more difficult or more dangerous, and any mishaps that might have been observed.
Although the event only resulted in minor injuries to people, there were a number of factors that directly affected the evacuation process and fire-fighting operations.

The main factors identified by the investigation are :
- The stopping point of the shuttle, which meant that the amenity coach door normally used for evacuation was not opposite a cross-passage,
- The fact that the amenity coach door normally used for evacuation was locked out of use,
- Communication difficulties between the chef de train and the passengers,
- The delay in opening the cross-passage door and starting the supplementary ventilation system,
- Excessive delays in attacking the fire, connected with electrical safety procedures,
- Numerous faults in technical systems.

Some organizational factors and areas for improvement in the safety management system were also identified.
The scope of the investigation does not cover an evaluation of the measures taken or planned by Eurotunnel (ET) after the fire and, in particular, the plan to create extinguishing stations (SAFE stations) in the rail tunnels.

The investigation has led to 39 recommendations being made concerning, in particular, the following areas :
- Evacuation,
- Fire-fighting,
- Rolling stock,
- Infrastructure and equipment,
- Procedures and tools used by the rail control centre,
- Safety management system.


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