Sunday, 20 December 2009

Train failures in Channel Tunnel

I have to say that I'm glad this weekend to be anywhere other than on a Eurostar passenger train between London and Paris! It must have been hellish to have been a passenger on one of the five trains that broke down in the Channel Tunnel and not a lot better if you were on the 'relief' train that came to an unscheduled stop in Kent. All this mayhem is we are told down to the weather. I don't know about the last mentioned breakdown but it seems as if the reason for the failures in the tunnel were because the trains and their operating systems had become cold out in the open countryside and then after entering the warm and humid atmosphere in the tunnel condensation had occurred on the electronics, enough to cause the breakdowns.

One or two observations here: firstly, although I understand the necessity of incorporating these clever electronics and no doubt 99.99% of the time they are fine, there does seem to be a degree of frailty when exposed to the most extreme weather. This reminds me f those failures on the Virgin trains at Dawlish when high tide and an easterly gale were throwing waves over the sea wall. The poor old electronics got a soaking and gave up on a number of occasions. This was some time ago and I guess these particular problems are resolved. No doubt the Eurostar engineers are 'burning the midnight oil' to find some solutions to their difficulties.

The other thing I want to comment on is the response of the train company at the time of the incidents. Unsurprisingly, following such a horrendous experience, many passengers affected have been quick to condemn the train company over things like lack of food and water while they were holed up in the tunnel. I can understand their reactions but I wonder what sort of provisioning is on the train should this sort of situation ever happen - would it be reasonable to expect these expresses to be prepared for the scenario of breaking down for a prolonged period of time.

I get the feeling that communication was poor or virtually non existent and this is where these companies seem not to get it. I may be maligning 'Brittany Ferries' but when they had a fire on one of their ships part way across the English Channel one of the main complaints from passengers was the lack of communication from the crew. Communication surely is key in these sorts of situations but is often lacking. The ferry incident was some time ago if you are wondering how you missed this story.

For me personally there is no conceivable reason to travel through the Channel Tunnel. Following these recent events I won't be looking to find one!

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