Published: 14:05, 23 November 2010
by Lauren Hood
A report into a Eurotunnel fire two years ago has found almost a third of the drivers did not speak English or French.
This lead to a lack of communication with passengers, increasing the sense of panic onboard, it said.
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch investigation recommended improvements to safety management in the tunnel as well as a better system to help locate the fire.
It took more than 15 hours to put out the blaze on a freight train about seven miles from Calais in September 2008.
Twenty-nine passengers were led to safety.
Among the conclusions of the report were:
* Passenger's received little information on the evacuation process (about a third of the drivers did not speak either English or French)
* Reduce time needed to provide electrical protection for fire-fighters
* Review the supplementary ventilation system to stop the fire spreading
* Examine feasibility of a system to make it possible to know the location of the fire
* Improvement of tactical radio
* Examine the possiblility of putting a system that could identify, immediately, the exact position at which the train has stopped.
Eurotunnel say they have already made moves to improve their safety since the 2008 fire.
A spokesman for the operator added: "The safety of people travelling through the Channel Tunnel has never been in question: in each emergency incident recorded since opening in 1994, all passengers and crew have been evacuated and brought safely to the surface.
"Our customers come from all over Europe and of course many of them do not speak English or French.
"Our safety information and signage is available in nine different languages to cover this and is provided both on the terminals and at the departure of every crossing.
"Over the past two years significant modifications have been made to the infrastructure safety systems in the Channel Tunnel and many of the recommendations in the report have either already been implemented or are no longer relevant.
"It should be stated that the fire broke out on board a lorry being carried through the Channel Tunnel, and that it caused substantial damage and cost to the operator, Eurotunnel.
"It is also important to mention that during a BINAT incident, the control of the incident and the operation of the Channel Tunnel are managed by the emergency services on each side of the Tunnel.
"Eurotunnel complied fully with the procedures put in place by the Intergovernmental Commission, the safety regulator for the Channel Tunnel."
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