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Tunnel safety 'won't be taken seriously until 50 people die'

Cllr Keith Ferrin: "That is not a prophecy, but in my view an inevitability"
Cllr Keith Ferrin: "That is not a prophecy, but in my view an inevitability"

A senior county councillor is facing criticism after claiming 50 people would have to die before fire safety in the Channel Tunnel is taken seriously.

Cllr Keith Ferrin (Con), who is the politician in charge of transport for Kent County Council, stunned fellow councillors with his claim during a meeting.

During a briefing on the county council’s response to the incident in September, Cllr Ferrin told a meeting of KCC’s cross-party environment scrutiny committee: "Although there was an inquiry after 1996, my understanding is not all the recommendations were enacted upon and it is my view that 50 people will have to die before anybody takes seriously the fire safety issues in the tunnel.

"Sooner or later, while these cargo shuttles to continue to operate as they are, 50 people will inevitably die. That is not a prophecy, but in my view an inevitability."

His comments were roundly denounced by several members of the committee, who said he was wrong to pre-judge the outcome of an official investigation into the latest incident.

But Cllr Ferrin remained unapologetic when challenged about his views, insisting that he believed the design of the shuttles remained a fundamental issue.

Cllr Susan Carey (Con), who used to work for Eurotunnel, said: "It is outrageous to say that 50 people will need to die and to repeat that. We should give Eurotunnel the opportunity to come here and explain to us what their procedures are.

"We have to remember the Herald of Free Enterprise and the number of people killed on our roads each day and that not one person has been killed or seriously injured in either of these two incidents."

But Cllr Ferrin repeated his claim, telling Mrs Carey she "should read some of the reports of lorry drivers who were involved in the latest fire".

He added: "I say what I say in the light of what I saw 20 years ago and two serious fires....Eurotunnel has been extraordinarily lucky. It is genuinely my view that 50 people will have to die."

Eurotunnel said it would be wrong to comment in detail before the results of the investigation were known but emphasised that it operated within the parameters set by the independent safety commission jointly administered by the French and British governments.

A company spokesman said: "While we are waiting for the outcome of the French judicial inquiry, it would be wrong to speculate on either the cause or the outcome.

"Eurotunnel is confident that its safety arrangements, as set by the inter-governmental safety commission, do their job in saving lives in the event of incidents in the Channel Tunnel."

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