Eurostar chaos shows up contingency planning

Saturday, December 19 2009

Two of the 12 Class 37 diesel locomotives once intended to operate sleeper services over non-electrified parts of the OK railway network. When the plan to run through sleeper services was scrapped, Eurostar sold 9 Class 37 locomotives, but retained 3 for the rescue of failed trains. These last 3, as well as 7 Class 92 electric locomotives were disposed of in 2007. Photo Les Chatfield.

(Click on picture to see original on Wikipedia and for details of licensing.)

Eurostar contingency planning was shown up as woefully inadequate as four trains bound for London from Paris and Brussels broke down inside the Channel Tunnel yesterday evening. While the breakdown of the trains is perhaps excusable – subzero temperatures in France caused electrical equipment to fail when trains reached the warm humid air inside the tunnel – the inability of Eurotunnel to deal promptly with the failed trains is totally inexcusable.

Not for the first time Eurostar, and Channel Tunnel Safety Authority have shown themselves to be totally incapable of maintaining a safety regime which ensures the safe and prompt removal of failed trains from the Tunnel. What value is there in a safety regime where passengers can be trapped all night in trains without air conditioning, are given no information about their plight and are then are required to transfer themselves and their own luggage to whatever alternative transport – no doubt after much deliberation and box ticking – has eventually been devised?

Could someone tell these people that trains have been breaking down since Stephenson’s era and that the proven solution is to have locomotives available which can tow the disabled trains and their passengers all the way to their intended destinations?




  1. Contingency planning doesn’t add to the bottom line which is why no one bothers doing it any more. To be fair, Eurotunnel and co were unlucky to have so many trains break down in such a short period of time but you’d have thought a few locos capable of hauling a dead set out of the hole in the ground would be a wise precaution.

  2. What puzzles me is that EXACTLY the same thing happened to me in January 1996. I was on my way from London to Brussels (ironically to interview then transport commissioner Neil Kinnock).

    The wretched train went into the tunnel like Henry the Green engine and refused to come out (snow coming in at the wrong angle). After an eon in Calais (of course, I never did get to Brussels) the train taking us back to London got stuck in the tunnel again.

    Both ways, the train was pulled out by a diesel loco from the French side.

    13 years on the same thing happens? No one learns?

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