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32 "Inside the Mont Blanc Tunnel" (2002, Mar. 6). BBC News. were rescued via the adjoining service tunnel; structural dam- Available: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1858436.stm age was considerable. (Accessed Nov. 18, 2004). Jones, G. (2001, Oct. 27). "Experts Demand Tunnel Safety Analysis of Pre-Incident Information and Events Push." CNN.Com. Available: http://archives.cnn.com/2001/ WORLD/europe/10/26/tunnel.safety/ (Accessed Nov. 18, 2004). The Channel Tunnel is a 32-mile (50-kilometer) rail tunnel McGillivray, G. (2001, May). "The Fire Within Tunnels." hundreds of feet beneath the English Channel that connects the Canadian Consulting Engineer, pp. 1822. United Kingdom with France. It is the world's longest under- Opstad, K. (2003, Nov. 1819, Seoul, Korea). "Fire Hazards sea tunnel. Despite the tunnel's length, it is possible to travel in Tunnels and Underground Installations." In International through the tunnel in about 20 minutes because trains may Symposium on the Fusion Technology of Geosystem Engi- operate at speeds up to 100 mph (160 kilometers per hour). neering, Rock Engineering and Geophysical Exploration, Construction began in 1988; by the time the tunnel was com- Seoul, Korea. pleted in 1994, it had cost more than $21 billion to complete, Peter, F. (1998). "The Causes, Effects & Control of Real making the tunnel the most expensive construction project Tunnel Fires." Wien, am 02.08.1998. Available: www.pruef undertaken at that time. Also called EuroTunnel, Eurotunnel, stelle.at/Vortrag_7.html (Accessed Nov. 18, 2004). or the Chunnel, it is actually three tunnels. Two of the tunnel "The Mont Blanc Disaster." The Land Rover Club. Available: tubes are full size and accommodate rail traffic. Between these http://www.landroverclub.net/Club/HTML/MontBlanc.htm tunnels is a smaller service tunnel that was planned as an emer- (Accessed Aug. 24, 2004). gency escape route. There are also crossover passages that allow Vuilleumier, F., Weatherill, A., & Crausaz, B. (2002, Apr.). trains to switch from one track to the other. "Safety Aspects of Railway and Road Tunnel: Example of the Each running bore has a walkway on the side nearest the service tunnel that was designed specifically for the evacua- Lotschberg Railway Tunnel and Mont-Blanc Road Tunnel." tion of passengers and crew in an emergency. The running Tunnelling & Underground Space Technology, Vol. 17, No. 2, tunnels are connected by cross passages to the service tunnel pp. 153158. at about 1,230-foot (375-meter) intervals. The passages have fire-resistant, air-lock doors on each side. 3.2.7 Channel Tunnel Fire Although the Eurostar train, the passenger service through the tunnel, received most of the early publicity, the Channel Location: Folkestone, England/Sangatte, France Tunnel is primarily a conduit for freight. In the first 5 years of Date: November 18, 1996 the Channel Tunnel's operation, trains using the tunnel car- Incident Category: fire ried 28 million passengers and 12 million tons of freight. Tunnel Length: 32-mile (50-kilometer) twin-bore Trains carrying freight through the Channel Tunnel are dif- steel and concrete underwater tunnel ferent from U.S. trail vans, where freight vans are loaded onto with access to a service tunnel every flatbeds and carried solely by the train to an unloading yard. 1,230 feet (375 meters) Although the Channel Tunnel provides a rail-only link, driv- Fatalities and Injuries: 0 fatalities, about 30 injuries ers of trucks load their vehicles onto specially designed carri- ers and then leave their trucks to ride in coaches that are usually located next to the locomotive and away from the Synopsis trucks, which are generally at the end of the train. When the A freight truck on Train 7539 traveling from France to train arrives at its destination, the trucks are unloaded from Great Britain caught fire in the Channel Tunnel. The train the train and the drivers retrieve their trucks and proceed to continued at normal speed (120 kilometers per hour) for their destinations. about 10 minutes before it stopped next to an exit to the This fire was not the first fire in the tunnel. About a year adjoining service tunnel, where it became impossible to dis- after it opened, the Channel Tunnel was the scene of a fire that connect the burning part of the train. The heavy fire damaged broke out in a train going from France toward England, as was the power catenary quickly once the train stopped. The fire the case in the November 18, 1996 fire. then spread rapidly to adjoining cars. The smoke moved quickly because of other trains moving in the tunnel; this Analysis of the Incident smoke also hampered evacuation. Train staff and truck driv- ers evacuated through a door leading to the service tunnel, A truck carrying expandable polystyrene (EPS) caught fire but overpressure from that tunnel door created a fresh air on Train 7539 traveling through the Channel Tunnel from bubble when the door was opened. All crew and passengers France to the United Kingdom on November 18, 1996. It was
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33 one of 29 trucks on the train, which was about 11 miles (18 Conclusions kilometers) into the tunnel when the fire was discovered. EPS, which is saturated with the expanding agent pentane, is flam- Although safety procedures called for a train to speed mable and is shipped in the form of beads in large bags or through the tunnel if fire broke out, the train stopped in this drums that are frequently transported by truck. Although most instance. Additionally, although procedures called for the hazardous substances are prohibited from transport through emergency ventilation system to be switched on, the system the tunnel, EPS was not among the banned substances. was not activated. Despite the sophisticated ventilation sys- The fire, which began near the end of the train, where the tem built into the Chunnel to pull smoke from the running loaded trucks were located, filled the tunnel with smoke and tunnels and to provide air to the service tunnel, the system did reached temperatures of 1,832°F (1,000°C), which resulted in a not work as designed during the fire. Three problems were number of the truck-bearing railcars being welded to the track. later determined to have prevented the system from activat- The train driver was unable to follow Eurotunnel's primary ing; two were caused by equipment and one by human error. safety option of proceeding through the tunnel in an emer- The first mechanical problem occurred when the heavy steel gency. The passenger carriage and front locomotive should have doors used to close off the tunnel crossovers remained in the automatically uncoupled from the train, but a power failure pre- open position during the incident. The second mechanical vented this automatic uncoupling from occurring. This failure problem occurred when one piston relief damper did not forced the train crew to lead the passengers off through the cen- close as it should have. These problems led to the large tral tunnel. The rescue effort was estimated to have taken about amount of smoke in the non-incident tunnel, and that 20 minutes. From the center tunnel, the evacuees were put on a amount of smoke was increased when the variable-pitch fans train that traveled through the second tunnel tube to safety. were left at zero pitch, making them useless for several min- The tunnel was busy at the time; in addition to the train utes. Once this problem was corrected, the fans helped to that caught fire, other vehicles in the tunnel included two remove smoke from the tunnel quickly. Eurostar passenger trains, two tourist shuttles, and two other There was extensive damage to the tunnel's concrete lining, freight shuttles (or lorry shuttles, as they are called in Great about 1,970 feet (600 meters) of which was scorched by the Britain). Once the fire was confirmed by the command center, fire and spalled under the intense heat. Similar damage did one of the tourist shuttles in the non-incident tube was not occur in other tunnel fires, and this difference led to con- ordered to stop at one of the fire doors to evacuate 26 pas- siderable study of the materials used and the heat-resistant sengers and the engineer of Train 7539. qualities of tunnel liners. Firefighters and some safety experts voiced concern about the design of the railcars that carry the trucks through the Fatalities and Injuries tunnel. The railcars are considered semi-open and are lighter The 29-car train was carrying 31 passengers and a crew of than the closed railcars that carry passenger vehicles and three; people who were injured suffered smoke inhalation, small trucks. The semi-open railcars permit a free flow of air mostly while being evacuated through the service tunnel. that may spread a fire. Since drivers do not remain with their Nineteen people were treated at hospitals, and two were seri- trucks, it may be some time before a fire is observed and its ously injured. Others received medical attention at the scene. exact location noted. Conversely, those who remain in pas- senger cars for the trip are considered to be in danger of car fires from electrical mishaps. Fire and Emergency Response The absence of fatalities in the Channel Tunnel fire, when It took firefighters from both countries almost 14 hours to compared with fires at Mont Blanc (linking France and Italy), contain the blaze, which damaged about 1,970 feet (600 Tauern (linking Austria and Italy), and Kaprun (in Austria), meters) of the tunnel. In addition, the concrete lining was have been attributed to the Channel Tunnel's being a three- scorched, miles of power cable were destroyed, and a section tube tunnel while the others are single-bore tunnels. With of the track buckled. The fire also destroyed the rear locomo- multi-tube tunnels, the non-incident tubes can be used to tive and nine trucks. shuttle equipment and staff to the accident site; this emer- gency response pattern does not exist in single-bore tunnels. But both the geography of a tunnel's location and the con- Damage and Service Restoration struction costs play a role in the decision of whether to con- Partial restoration of service took place on November 21, struct a single- or multi-bore tunnel. At the time it was built, three days after the fire occurred, but the United Kingdom the Channel Tunnel was the most expensive construction bound tube, where the fire occurred, was not reopened to pas- project planned, and it eventually cost more than $21 billion senger trains until about a month after the incident. to complete. The time from start to completion (1988 to