Channel Tunnel reopens for passenger services

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The Independent Online
The Channel Tunnel has been reopened to passengers, with the first Eurostar express due though from London early today. The Shuttle service is scheduled to restart on Tuesday.

Eurotunnel was given permission to resume passenger services last night, 15 days after fire badly damaged a 600-yard stretch of the tunnel.

The go-ahead was given by the Anglo-French Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) after advice from the tunnel's safety authority. The first Eurostar was the 5.50am to Paris. Eurostar plans to run 13 out of its 14 normal London Waterloo-Paris return trips today and seven out of its normal eight Brussels round trips.

The welcome news for the debt-ridden company came two days after a security drill intended to restore confidence in emergency procedures.

However the Conservative MP Roger Gale, who had criticised Sunday's exercise, said he still had "considerable lingering anxieties" at the re-opening.

"I appreciate the very considerable pressures that have been placed upon the safety authority and the desire on the part of the operator to re- open the tunnel for commercial business," he said. "I would expect, however, that even members of the safety Authority and the IGC must have an unease about re-starting a service before the preliminary findings of the inquiry have been made public." Important questions, over the design of the freight trains and the effectiveness of the fire and detection services, still needed to be answered.

The safety authority said after meeting in London it was satisfied "that the necessary safety equipment is available and that revised operating and emergency procedures are in place". Eddie Ryder, head of the British section of the safety authority, said: "The important thing to remember is that there is a safe haven within very close reach at all times. Passengers can be got into the safe haven of the service tunnel."