Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Chunnel Tunnel Returning to Normal Service

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Chunnel Tunnel Returning to Normal Service

Article excerpt

TRAIN SERVICE through the Channel Tunnel is gradually returning to normal, after a fire in mid-November shut the tunnel for three weeks and renewed fears about passenger safety.

The fire, which broke out as a truck being transported through the tunnel burst into flame, was the first such accident since the tunnel opened more than a year ago. Although it caused no serious injuries, it damaged 12 miles of tracks and proved to be a major public relations disaster for the already-beleaguered tunnel operators.

On Dec. 3, the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority, which handles safety issues for the Channel Tunnel, announced that the tunnel was ready to be reopened to passengers and vehicles. The next day, passenger trains began running on both tracks - except for the 12-mile segment in the center of one of the tracks where the fire broke out, which will be shut down for repairs for the next three to six months. In the meantime, trains switch to the other track when they reach that section. Eurostar, which operates the passenger trains between Britain and the Continent, is now sending 13 trains a day, round trip, between London and Paris, and seven between London and Brussels, only one fewer on each route than before. And Le Shuttle trains, which carry passengers in their cars from the English coast to the French coast, have also resumed, with 33 round trips a day, about 50 percent of normal capacity. But the trains are running more slowly. Usually three hours long, the trip between Paris and London is now taking between 20 and 40 minutes longer. Le Shuttle trips are taking about 40 to 45 minutes, 10 to 15 minutes longer than usual. The times should return to normal when the tunnel is repaired. Despite criticism from the British Safety Council, an independent watchdog, the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority has assured travelers that the tunnel is perfectly safe, particularly now that a new emergency plan meant to insure speedier, more efficient evacuation has been set up. …

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