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Groupe Eurotunnel SA said passengers unable to travel through the Channel Tunnel after a fire yesterday can all make their journeys today after one-third more slots were granted to express-train operator Eurostar International Ltd.
Eurostar will be able to run about 40 services, compared with 30 on a normal Sunday, as the maximum number of trains are squeezed through the one open tube. The second tube, where the fire occurred, should open later today or tomorrow morning, Eurotunnel spokeswoman Fabienne Lissak said by telephone.
After a smoldering load on a truck aboard a vehicle shuttle was doused yesterday afternoon, Eurotunnel ran an initial train through the unaffected southbound tunnel at midnight to clear any gas pockets. The full shuttle service resumed at about 2 a.m., with trains running alternately north and south in batches of five to minimize delays, Lissak said. Eurostar passenger services that link London with Paris and Brussels commenced after 6 a.m.
“All the people that could not travel yesterday with Eurostar can do it today,” Lissak said, adding that there were no queues this morning at Gare du Nord, the Paris station from which trains depart for London St. Pancras via the tunnel. Eurostar said that availability may still be “limited.”
The 30-mile sub-sea link was saved from significant damage yesterday by the triggering of a sprinkler system after smoke from the stricken lorry activated carbon dioxide detectors, with the train soaked in water even before firefighters arrived, keeping temperatures below 50 degrees Celsius, Lissak said.
The tunnel has suffered a number of fire-related shutdowns since opening in 1994, including a two-hour closure in 2012 and another spanning two days in 2008, when one tube was put out of action for five months. The events all involved trucks, some 1.5 million of which use the Folkestone-Calais shuttle each year.
Lissak confirmed that nobody was hurt in yesterday’s event, with the 38 truckers on the affected shuttle all escaping via the system’s service tube, together with the train driver, a guard and two rail mechanics. As many as 800 maintenance staff worked to get the tunnel open again yesterday, she said.
Eurostar said on its website that services will be subject to a one-hour delay today while advising passengers to check in as normal. People who were unable to travel yesterday who need to leave urgently should rebook via the company’s call center, with some availability after midday, it said. Customers can alternatively change their booking for free in the next 60 days for travel in the next four months, or get a refund.
There was no backlog at shuttle terminals as vehicles were diverted to Eurotunnel’s MyFerryLink sailings between Dover and Calais. The Paris-based company said last week it was seeking a buyer for the ferry arm after a U.K. court upheld a regulator’s decision blocking it from owning the unit on antitrust grounds.
This article was written by Chris Jasper from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.