Magazine article Security Management

Security Goes Underwater

Magazine article Security Management

Security Goes Underwater

Article excerpt

THE OPENING OF THE CHANNEL TUNNEL HAS BEEN postponed from June 15, 1993, until late summer. This delay may not be bad, as it will give more time to consider the security aspects of this unique venture. Other long-distance, underwater tunnels have been constructed, but this will be the first linking two sovereign states, thus creating particular problems that must be addressed now to safeguard passenger travel.

Physical factors. Originally, four separate schemes were submitted for consideration by construction and finance groups. The scheme designed by the Channel Tunnel Group--France-Manche (CTG-FM) was chosen. The selection committee believed the CTG-FM scheme to be the least vulnerable to terrorism and sabotage.

The channel link will consist of two tunnels, each with a 7.3-meter internal diameter, carrying a single track railway line. Between these tunnels will be a third, with an internal diameter of 4.5 meters. This tunnel will be a service tunnel and an escape route in the event of an emergency.

During the early planning stages of the tunnel and its operation, considerable emphasis was placed on safety. Those opposing the scheme commented on the dangers that would arise in the event of a fire in the tunnel, the risk of rabid dogs and foxes escaping from France into Kent, and the danger of terrorist action against the tunnel.

To counter these dangers, the Euro-tunnel operators claim that the single welded rails on a level concrete bed will provide a degree of safety in operating the train that will be of the highest level. Therefore, the possibility of an accident underground involving a train and fire is minimal.

Special action will be taken to prevent possibly rabid animals making their way into the system by having an electrified fence around the French terminal at Frethun, near Calais, to repel dogs and foxes. Animals will not be permitted in the terminal. Special patrols will also be mounted regularly to search the tunnel and, in the event of an emergency, a special train will be available at either end of the tunnel to convey the emergency services to the scene within minutes.

Risk analysis. The early planners of the tunnel did not consider the risk of sabotage or terrorist attack to be higher than that of an attack on a cross-channel ferry or on a train. Providing only one access to the tunnel was considered important in reducing the risk.

In comparison to other routes of transport across the channel, passenger ferries have more than one possible access and they carry motor vehicles in the same manner intended by the cross-channel rail link. The ferries had not been subject to terrorist acts, and so there was no need to believe that the tunnel would be a terrorists' target. This terrorist threat may have been magnified by those who opposed the creation of the Channel Tunnel.

During the planning of the rail network and the construction stage of the tunnel, environmental issues have taken precedence in the public perception. The public's attention has been focused on issues that accompany the project, such as the resulting high noise levels near towns and villages and the construction work and landscaping necessary for the high-speed train and track.

The possibility of terrorist action against the Channel Tunnel and its rail network has become more real following the upsurge of activity in London by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Bombs at Paddington and Victoria mainline stations, the bomb placed alongside the track near Wandsworth railway station, and other incidents that have occurred during the past two years lead to the conclusion that an attack on this prestigious railway link is a possibility. It would create chaos and gain publicity for a terrorist cause.

Although there is no historical precedent on which to draw in evaluation of the possible threat to the Channel Tunnel, there have been a number of attacks on railways, including the IRA bombings in London. …

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