Sprinkler system for Channel Tunnel

Contributed by editor on Feb 02, 2009 - 05:00 AM

The Channel Tunnel is to have a sprinkler system installed after the
third fire in 12 years forced Eurotunnel to admit that it had
underestimated the risk of disaster deep under the sea bed.

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Burning trains will stop at “extinguishing stations” that 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 according to reports in
the Times.

Passengers and lorries have suffered delays and
cancellations for the past five months because 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.

Bruno Bouthors, Eurotunnel’s safety director, told The Times: “People
might ask why it wasn’t done before, but the fire in 1996 was thought to
be exceptional and the one in 2006 was small. The latest fire is showing
we need to prepare for the worst case.”

He said that the system would prevent fires from spreading out of
control, allowing time for the firefighters to get to the scene via the
service tunnel. In the fires in 1996 and in September, firefighters
arrived too late to prevent severe damage.

Mr Bouthors said that the extinguishing stations would be located so
that a train could arrive at one within 15 minutes of a fire being
detected. He admitted that a fire-suppression system had been considered
before the tunnel opened in 1994. He said that it was easy to be
critical in hindsight, but at the time the risk of a lorry fire was
thought to be very low.