Train manufacturer Alstom has criticised a Eurostar decision to purchase trains from rival Siemens, suggesting safety in the Channel Tunnel could be jeopardized.
Eurostar yesterday confirmed it would invest £700 million in ten new e320 trains, which can carry 900 passengers at speeds of 200 mph.
Pictured: An illustrative e320 was show in London yesterday
The operator – which offers high-speed train services connecting London, Brussels and Paris – had previously only ordered rolling-stock from Alstom, a French company.
However, following the latest deal Alstom questioned the safety implications.
Siemens’ Velaro trains use distributed power, where motors are positioned throughout the train, under the floors. This is in contrast to Alstom trains, which have all of their motors and electrical equipment concentrated in power cars at either end of the train.
As such Alstom argues the Siemens trains are unsuitable for Channel Tunnel.
A terse statement read: “Alstom notes the current safety rules applying to trains travelling through the Channel tunnel conform to the highest possible standards and consequently do not permit the use of the trains that Eurostar states it has purchased.”
A Channel Tunnel Safety Authority consultation on potential rule changes earlier this year began the administrative steps necessary to allow the use of distributed power trains.
Following the move Deutsche Bahn has begun exploring the possibility of launching a new service between London and Frankfurt.
The stance of Alstom is all the more surprising as the AGV train submitted by Alstom during the tender process uses distributed traction and could have faced similar objections.
The company – based in Paris – has so far secured only one order for its new AGV design in the two years since its launch in 2008.
However, the company appears to have the backing of the French government.
French environment minister, Jean-Louis Borloo, and transport minister, Dominique Bussereau, issued a joint statement to “express their amazement at Eurostar’s failure to take account of the applicable safety rules in the call for tender for replacing its train sets”.
The two ministers said it was “inconceivable” rules would be relaxed in light of the three fires in the Channel tunnel since it opened in 1994.