Eurotunnel to install sprinkler system after 12-year deliberation

The Channel Tunnel is to have a sprinkler system fitted after the fire last September, the third in 12 years, forced tunnel operator Eurotunnel to admit that it had underestimated the risk of disaster.

Eurotunnel is acting following the incident in September when a lorry caught fire, although it has been testing and debating a system since the first fire in 2006.Millions of passengers and lorries suffered subsequent delays and cancellations because all trains have been diverted to the other tunnel. Repairs are costing more than £50 million and normal train services will not resume until February 23.

It was the third time that a lorry travelling on an open wagon had caught fire. Car shuttle trains have carriages that can be sealed and filled with a suppressing gas in the event of a fire.

Eurotunnel has now admitted its mistake and is drawing up plans for an advanced sprinkler system, which will feature “Extinguishing stations” at intervals along the 31-mile twin tunnels. In the event of a fire, the train will stop at the next extinguishing station. Heat detectors will locate the fire and high-pressure jets of water or foam will be aimed automatically at the source as soon as the last passenger has escaped into the service tunnel.

The system will first have to be approved by the Intergovernmental Commission, which oversees tunnel safety. It is could be installed by the end of next year.

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“Extinguishing stations” will be built at intervals along the 31-mile (50km) twin tunnels.

Heat detectors will locate the fire and high-pressure jets of water or foam will be aimed automatically at the source as soon as the last passenger has escaped into the service tunnel.
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