Channel tunnel train evacuated

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(First Edition)

Ten lorry drivers were evacuated from the Channel tunnel yesterday afternoon after a false alarm caused a train to stop the midway between England and France.

It is the second lengthy breakdown on the service, which began on 19 May, but the first in which a train has been evacuated.

The problem in the train, which was travelling from Folkestone to Calais, was a faulty warning system which indicated that the props used during loading had engaged.

The drivers were evacuated through the service tunnel to the other line, where a train took them back to England. They rejoined their trucks after a delay of over two hours.

The tunnel is being used for a limited service of hourly shuttle trains for lorries and by a few freight trains. Tourists will use it from next month.

Alain Bertrand, Eurotunnel's chief operating officer, said: 'There was never any danger. The driver was carrying out the proper procedure by stopping the train because if the props had been down, they would have damaged the track.'

On 27 May, four drivers were stuck on a train for two hours near the British portal after a driver stopped the train because of a faulty warning light on an anti-skid device. That time, however, the drivers chose to remain with their trucks on the train rather than be evacuated.

The tunnel has been dogged by a series of similar minor problems which have led to delays in opening for full service and the loss of virtually the whole summer season's business.

A spokeswoman for Eurotunnel said: 'These are minor problems but they are the reason why we are only running a limited service for invited hauliers at the moment.'

Eurotunnel is hoping that it will be able to operate a normal 'turn up and go' service for trucks by next month and for cars in October.