Tun­nel fire dam­age re­vealed

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Sounds Good - by Trevor Sturgess tsturgess@thek­m­group.co.uk

THE stag­ger­ing scale of the chal­lenge fac­ing Chan­nel Tun­nel en­gi­neers af­ter the fire in Septem­ber be­came clear when the dam­aged sec­tion was shown to the me­dia for the first time.

Af­ter an­nounc­ing that the tun­nel would be fully open in midFe­bru­ary, Eurotunnel chief ex­ec­u­tive Jac­ques Gounon last Wed­nes­day led vis­i­tors to what had been a scene of dev­as­ta­tion on Septem­ber 11.

An ap­par­ent lorry fire on a freight shut­tle seven miles into the tun­nel from the French side sparked a rag­ing in­ferno.

Thirty-two driv­ers and shut­tle crew were led to safety.

Hun­dreds of work­men are work­ing around the clock 120ft un­der the sea bed in this un­der­ground construction site to re­pair the half-mile stretch of tun­nel.

Re­stricted ser­vice

Con­crete lin­ings de­stroyed by 1,000 de­gree heat have been re­placed and are be­ing sprayed with new ce­ment.

It is an amaz­ing world of wind, noise, dust, lights and scaf­fold­ing.

Four thou­sand tonnes of con­crete and 3,000 tonnes of bal­last are be­ing used in the project.

The four-month project is cost­ing Eurotunnel £50 mil­lion, but bosses hope to re­coup that sum when they know who or what was re­spon­si­ble for the fire.

The south run­ning tun­nel was re­opened 30 hours af­ter the fire, but there has been a re­stricted ser­vice ever since.

The dam­age has cost Eurotunnel up to £100 mil­lion in lost rev­enue.

The fire is still be­ing in­ves­ti­gated but M Gounon said new safety mea­sures were be­ing in­tro­duced or rec­om­mended to of­fi­cials.

Cus­tomers should not be con­cerned about trav­el­ling through the tun­nel af­ter it re­opens, he said.

“Safety re­mains our key pri­or­ity,” he said. “Since the open­ing of the tun­nel, thank God, we haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced any fa­tal­ity in the tun­nel. When you con­sider the first fire [in 1996] was a ma­li­cious act this was the first real fire since the open­ing of the tun­nel.”

He con­tin­ued: “Once we re­sume traf­fic in Fe­bru­ary we will see cus­tomers com­ing back to the lev­els we had be­fore.”

Danielle Hen­drick­sen re­ceives her ham­per from Colin Kin­loch watched by Peter Davies, left, vice-chair­man of the Ten­ter­den Steer­ing Group, and Waitrose duty man­ager Kevin Charl­ton

Pic­ture: Paul Den­nis pd 1519798

Spe­cially erected scaf­fold­ing in the tun­nel en­ables work­ers to re­pair the roof and the sides

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