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Channel Tunnel blaze was avoidable

Serious damage to the Channel Tunnel could have been avoided if Eurotunnel had acted on lessons from previous blazes, fire fighters and tunnel experts have claimed.

According to the New Civil Engineer Magazine Tunnel operator Eurotunnel has been criticised for failing to replace open sided lattice framed lorry carriers with enclosed rolling stock.

The tunnel operator was also attacked for failing to install fire suppression systems in the lorry wagons and for failing to provide adequate protection to the tunnel's concrete lining.

The fire broke out at 2.57pm last Thursday on a shuttle train in the twin bore crossing's North Tunnel, 11km from the French entrance.

The source of the blaze, which burned for 16 hours, was a lorry reportedly carrying chemicals.

The fire spread to other trucks destroying six carriages and one locomotive. No-one was killed but 700m of the tunnel was damaged.

After the fire the British Fire Brigades Union (FBU) hit out, claiming recommendations it made 12 years ago following the Channel Tunnel fire in November 1996 were ignored.

That fire burned for seven hours and caused £200M of damage to the tunnel.

FBU south east general secretary Jim Parrott said: "We submitted a report after the last major fire 12 years ago, and our main concern was open-sided wagons.

"We wanted closed trucks that would contain any fire. Considering there are 40,000 vehicle fires per year in the UK, it is remarkable there have not been more fires in the Channel Tunnel since," he said. Eurotunnel uses open-sided wagons to transport HGVs through the Channel Tunnel.

For more information see www.nce.co.uk