Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Riding the Night Train through 'Injun Country'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Riding the Night Train through 'Injun Country'

Article excerpt

Byline: PETER BIRKETT

A tidal wave of asylum seekers trying to enter Britain still play a nightly game of cat and mouse trying to board Channel Tunnel trains in France.

Peter Birkett reports from a driver's cab 'It's like the first day of the Somme' - train driver Andy Parfitt

THE SIGNAL goes green and at 9.16pm Andy Parfitt soothes his 126-ton locomotive into the Channel Tunnel heading towards France and what he and his fellow drivers call "Injun Country".

We are due to pull one of the 750 metre long freight trains back to England through the gauntlet of illegal immigrants besieging the SNCF marshalling yard at Frethun outside Calais.

Mike Proctor, a second driver with the beleaguered British rail freight company EWS, is ahead of us in his Class 92 loco, already in Frethun waiting to hitch up.

"There are only two early trains coming home tonight," explains Andy at the [pound]4.2million machine's controls. "If they're going to hit us, it will be one of these."

It takes 25 minutes to transit the tunnel and Andy brings his 7,100hp leviathan to a halt at red-lit Signal 217, a notorious spot out on the unprotected sugar beet fields close to the French yard. We wait.

Alan Brooks, driver manager at the EWS depot near Folkestone who is riding shotgun with us, spots the first one. "Over there," he points. "White eyes."

We follow the finger, peering into the darkness and see at least 10 shadowy figures, some masked, moving slowly towards us along the side of the track. "Check the cab locks," Alan says tersely. "And keep the windows closed."

Just then Mike Proctor calls on his mobile reporting pandemonium ahead.

"They're everywhere ...jumping fences, rushing for the train."

As we get to the yard we see more than 50 figures sitting on a low platform. They've been rounded up and are awaiting what EWS drivers call a "happy bus", transport laid on to return them to the Red Cross camp three miles away at Sangatte from where, tomorrow, they'll start out all over again. …

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