Archive Section

The Locomotive & Carriage Institution
Home Centenary 2011 Continental Visits Lectures Newsletters History Visits Pictorial Visits Narrative Seminars
Euro Tunnel

An edited transcript of a lecture  by Sarah Kendal, then Train Crew Manager, Eurotunnel, held in Folkestone on 26th April 1995.  


The first drawings for a channel tunnel were presented to Napoleon about 200 years ago.  There were tentative attempts to build a tunnel in Victorian times and then again in the 1970's.

In November 1984 Margaret Thatcher and Franoise Mitterand re-launched the Channel Tunnel project. This was done on the basis that it would be achieved by private enterprise, or not at all. A treaty was drawn up between the UK and France to authorise a 55 year concession to build and operate bridges and/or tunnels across the Channel.  In May 1985 the competition was launched to select a consortium to build and operate the Channel Tunnel.

In April 1986 the concession was signed, the promoters of Eurotunnel were a Joint Venture of 10 major Civil Engineering contractors and 5 Banks.  At this stage the operator company, Eurotunnel, did not exist and was created in October 1986, 6 months after the Concession was signed.

You will have no doubt read and heard much about the relationship between Eurotunnel, the operators, and the construction company, TML. TML have been responsible for the design and build of the tunnel.

The system was handed over from TML, to Eurotunnel on 10 December 1993. It was however the 15th January this year before the last of the tests on completion was actually formally completed.   Although the original idea was a direct handover of a fully operating system, there has been a phased opening of the tunnel.

The tunnel was officially opened by the Queen and Franoise Mitterand on 6th May 1994.  We are about to celebrate our first birthday.

On 14th May the Operating Certificates were granted for the HGV shuttles and the Freight trains.  The services began on 19th May and 1st June.

The test services for the Tourist shuttles began on 18th July and for the Eurostars on 17th August.

The Operating Certificate for the Eurostars was granted on 12th October with commercial opening on 14th November.

The Operating Certificate for Tourist shuttles was granted on 15th December with commercial opening on 22nd December.

The Operating Certificates are granted by the Intergovernmental Commission which was created under the concession agreement. The certificates are granted on advice from the Safety Authority, which is Eurotunnel's regulator for safety matters.

The Tunnel System:

The tunnel is in fact three tunnels.  Two railway running tunnels with a central service tunnel between the two.  This design is to maximise safety with the service tunnel providing a safe haven throughout the length of the tunnel. The ventilation systems maintain the air pressure in the service tunnel at a higher level than that in the running tunnels to ensure that any smoke or fumes cannot enter the service tunnel.  The service tunnel is patrolled 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by emergency response teams in special vehicles adapted for the service tunnel.

Eurotunnel is both a provider of infrastructure to the national railways for their Eurostar and through-freight services, and also operates its own shuttle services between a terminal in Folkestone and a terminal in Coquelles near Calais.

The Railway tunnels are single bore tunnels lying generally between 25 & 40 metres below the sea bed.  Throughout the tunnels are walkways providing access to the service tunnel through cross passage doors which are located every 375 metres.  The system is electrified with an overhead catenary system operating at 25,000 volts.

The signalling system is the French TVM 430 system, which includes automatic train protection.  It is an in-cab signalling system with section markers or "repère" rather than the more traditional colour light or semaphore signals.

Data is transmitted to the train via trackside equipment.  The on-train equipment receives the data, compares it to the train characteristics and calculates a safe maximum speed on that basis.  The signalling system controls the train within the required braking curve with warnings and an automatic brake application if the speed goes above the safe speed.  An in-cab display gives the permitted maximum speed, and an advance warning of a restrictive change.  Both running tunnels and the main terminal lines are fully reversible.

The two running tunnels are single track and separate, joined with two large undersea crossovers which divide the tunnel into six intervals.  The main railway control centre is at Folkestone but there is a "hot standby" facility at the Coquelles terminal.  The system is designed so that the railway system can be controlled from either the main railway control centre or the standby facility with a minimum of handover delay.  There is also a train crew controller based in the main rail control centre and a separate terminal control for each terminal.  The terminal control manages all road traffic movements.

At either end of the tunnel there are also fire equipment management centres.  Their primary function is to monitor all fire detection and suppression systems in the tunnels and to alert the railway control centre in the event of an alarm.  There are also incident control centres on each terminal, fully equipped with permanent links and facilities for all of the emergency response organisations.  These rooms are built solely for use in the event of an emergency.

All the shuttle trains operate with a locomotive at each end; there is also a requirement that each train has two qualified drivers on board.  For this reason our drivers and chef de train are multi skilled and are qualified for both jobs.

The other trains that use the system are the Eurostar services between London, Paris and Brussels.  These are operated in the U.K. by European Passenger Services.  There are also through-freight services now built up to 20 trains a day which operate between the U.K. and other parts of continental Europe.  The import and export of cars and car components is one of the key flows of traffic. These trains are at present operated through the tunnel by SNCF locomotives pending commissioning of the Class 92s.


You will have heard much public debate about the role of the Safety Authority and the safety regime to which the tunnel is subjected.  The Safety Authority was initially given the guideline that travellers through the tunnel should be no less safe than on any 50kms of line anywhere in France or Britain. The detailed safety regime was not defined at an early stage.

As the first of its kind in the transport industry Eurotunnel compiled a full Safety Case.  This contains both a qualitative and a quantitative analysis of the safety systems employed.  The studies range from tests on fire detection systems and smoke control to evacuation procedures and human factors analysis.  The Safety Case is a living document and has been extensively consulted during our first year of operation. It does, and will continue to evolve as we develop further our safety systems and safety initiatives.

Safety is a key area, particularly in the minds of our customers and potential customers, as well as the wider public.  We will continue to improve but it is interesting to note that our Safety Case predicts that we are 20 times safer than national railway services.

As well as the safety case, our safety culture is important.  We have created and are maintaining a culture based on the open reporting of accidents and incidents.  A caring trusting culture is required.  Eurotunnel believe that if a genuine mistake is made and information regarding the mistake and the reasons for it are communicated, then no blame should be attached.  There is however, a difference between genuine mistakes and gross misconduct.  The latter must receive the punishment it deserves.  The whole point of managing safety is to identify the root causes of incidents and accidents, not to apportion blame.


Another key feature about our organisation is that the company is structured on a bi-national basis.  It has been deliberately structured to reflect the separate cultures of the two countries and not for one or the other to predominate.  This means that our condition of service are common between the two countries wherever possible.  For example, we have a company council in the UK which mirrors the legally required Comite d'entreprise in France.

The language issue is one that is frequently raised. For operational purposes the staff of the Rail Control Centre are all bilingual between English and French. This allows other Operations staff, most notably the Train Crews, to converse with the Control Centre in their own native tongue.

HGV Service:

I will now briefly take you through the system as seen by our HGV customers:

Access to the Tolls is directly off the motorway in both the UK and in France.  In France there is a separate entrance to the system for lorry drivers, away from the car passenger traffic.

The majority of our customers have accounts with us although there is still scope for on-spec traffic. The price for a customer without an account is 390.

The lorries are carried on open vehicles, which are larger than the standard British loading gauge in order to be able to accommodate the larger sizes of lorries. They drive directly onto the train from the platform, chocks are placed under the wheels to ensure that the lorries don't move in the event of an emergency brake application. When the train is ready to depart the bridge plates on the loading wagons are raised, separate propping jacks which stabilise the train during loading are raised. As some of you may be aware, the propping jacks have given us problems and a number of tests are being conducted at the moment to analyse what will happen if we remove the propping jacks from one of the HGV trains.

The lorry drivers travel separated from their lorries in a Club Car at the leading end of the train. During the journey they are served with an airline-style meal.  On arrival at the terminal at the other side the lorry a small terminal bus back takes drivers to rejoin their lorry.  The vehicles are unchocked, they drive off and have access again directly onto the motorway network.

Tourist Service:

For passengers travelling in cars or coaches the procedures are very similar, although car and coach passengers remain with their vehicle.  Access to the terminals is again directly from the motorway arriving at the Toll booths and then entering the Eurotunnel system.  On each terminal there are buildings providing restaurant and other facilities for customers.   Refreshments and duty free are not provided on board the shuttles.

Before boarding the shuttle all Eurotunnel customers proceed through two separate passport control cheeks.   For example, if departing from Folkestone both the UK passport control and the French passport control will be passed before joining the shuttle.

Cars are carried on the Tourist trains which consist of a single-deck rake, designed primarily for coaches, and a double-deck rake with two layers of cars .  Cars enter the shuttle at the rear of the train and drive through the interior.  Once positioned inside fire barriers close between each wagon of the train, creating a number of individual wagons in the interior of the train.  Each wagon will normally carry five cars on each deck of each wagon.   The Tourist shuttle wagons are air conditioned and have additional ventilation systems to purge vehicle fumes during and immediately after loading and unloading.   Communication between passengers and the Chef de Train is possible via a passenger communication alarm system. The Chef de Train has the ability to view each shuttle wagon independently through a video system which automatically displays the affected wagon in the event of a fire alarm sounding.  The Chef de Train also has public address facilities throughout the train and a dot matrix system of text messages.

Safety announcement and safety information panels are standard throughout the shuttles. In addition crew members patrol regularly up and down each Tourist shuttle.

A tourist shuttle consists of a double-deck rake which is normally in rear, and a singledeck rake which is normally the leading rake.    Coaches are loaded in a similar way to the cars, although you will note the retractable canopy which is at each end of the single-deck rake.  This is to allow sufficient manoeuvrability for loading and unloading coaches.

The journey from platform to platform lasts 35 minutes. On arrival vehicles exit through the front of the train and loading cycle recommences.  Having cleared both exit and entry passport and immigration controls before boarding the train, on exiting the tourist shuttle passengers drive straight off the system and onto the motorway network.


In closing, I will briefly consider the position of our competition.  As you will be aware, the fight for market and market share between ourselves and the ferries has already started and the battle this summer will be an intense one.

The ferries, like ourselves, identify the cross-Channel market as one which is growing.  The growth is both for freight and passenger crossings.  This is our first summer in business for passengers.  Our system is designed on a turn-up-and-go basis and we have a real challenge ahead of us to ensure that we can deliver the reliability that our customers require from us.

We are already carrying more freight than the Port of Dunkirk. On the tourist services we carried over the four days of the Easter period 15,000 cars.  The tunnel carries 200 trains a day.  We have no automatic market.  We do not have customers who have been with us for years and for generations.  The tunnel and its services are a new product in the market place.

The birth has been difficult. The first year's achievements are a tremendous tribute to our people. Our second year will see us continue to progress and learn.

You will no doubt watch with interest the progress of what is the youngest railway in Britain, and indeed, in Europe.