September 23, 2008 | Mark Paradies

Investigation into the Fire on an HGV Shuttle Train in the Chunnel

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A press release from the UK Rail Accident Investigation Board:

The Bureau d’Enquêtes sur les Accidents de Transport Terrestre (BEA-TT) and the UK Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) are carrying out a joint investigation into a fire that occurred on a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) shuttle train in the French part of the Channel Tunnel. 

On the afternoon of Thursday 11 September 2008, a fire broke out on a train carrying HGVs from the UK terminal at Folkestone to the French terminal at Coquelles, just outside Calais.  The train was subsequently stopped 11.5 km kilometres from the French tunnel portal (39 km from the UK portal).

As soon as it was known that there was a fire on board the train, the train drew to a halt with its amenity coach (in which the HGV drivers travel during the transit) alongside a door giving access to the service tunnel, which provides a place of safety in case of emergencies.  The service tunnel runs between the two rail running tunnels, with access doors at regular intervals.

All 29 passengers and 3 crew from the train left the train and walked to the service tunnel.  They were later transported from there to the Coquelles terminal.  Several were suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation; there are also reports that some had minor cuts and bruises.

The fire spread to involve other HGVs on the train.

Once all the personnel had been safely evacuated from the fire scene, the fire services of both the Pas-de-Calais and Kent tackled the fire itself.  The fire was not finally extinguished until mid-morning on Friday 12 September.

A Binational Emergency (BINAT) was declared by the Prefet of the Pas-de-Calais, invoking the provisions of the Binational Emergency plan for co-operation between the emergency services of the two countries to tackle a major incident within the Channel Tunnel.

The joint investigation into the accident will be led by BEA-TT (in whose territory the train stopped) and will be independent of any investigation by the Intergovernmental Commission which is the safety authority for the Channel Tunnel.

The findings of the investigation will be published in a report, including any recommendations to improve safety.  This report will be available on the BEA-TT and RAIB websites. See:

http://www.raib.gov.uk

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