Sad irony that recovery from Tunnel fire should coincide with tragedy in Australia

Contributed by editor on Feb 12, 2009 - 12:00 AM

Howard's Way.... a weekly column from the Rt. Hon. Michael Howard QC. MP. 

12 February 2009


On Monday afternoon I attended the re-opening of Interval 6 of Channel Tunnel. This was the section that has been closed since the dreadful fire last September. The ceremony was performed by Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Transport, and presided over by Jacques Gounon, the Chairman of Eurotunnel.

It all brought back memories of the events of last September – the fire itself and the courage of so many of those involved, notably the driver of the train – who drove the first train through Interval 6 on Monday – and the firefighters who laboured long and hard to bring it under control.

It was a sad irony that this example of recovery from fire should coincide with the terrible fires which are causing such tragedy and havoc in Australia.

Although I have only been there once, I have a great affection for that country. Its links with us are still strong and there is a great deal about it to admire.

The fires which have taken hold around Melbourne have had the most terrible consequences. Yet again the firefighters have been called on to put their lives on the line. But the most appalling feature of these events in Australia has been the extent to which, apparently, they were caused deliberately.

This is a phenomenon which truly defies all understanding. We must all hope that those responsible are brought to justice but even that will be no consolation at all to those who have suffered such grievous losses. Both in Australia and here at home there will be lessons to be learned.

The inquiry into the cause of the fire in the Channel Tunnel has still not finished its work. We must do all we can to make sure it does not happen again.