Tunnel 'seven times safer than BR': Operator's report predicts one death every billion journeys on Channel trains

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The Independent Online
TRAVEL through the Channel tunnel will be at least seven times safer than an ordinary rail journey of the same length, according to the tunnel's operator, Eurotunnel.

Eurotunnel, which has just submitted its plans to the Anglo-French body responsible for safety in the tunnel, says that it has managed to far exceed the targets it was set. The number of deaths in accidents through the 50km tunnel is predicted to be just under one for every billion journeys by passengers travelling on the through trains from London to Paris, which is about 13 times safer than for conventional rail journeys in Britain and France.

These figures exclude the risk on conventional railways of falling from moving trains or under trains at platforms which, if included, make the tunnel journey between 30 and 50 times safer.

Motorists travelling on the Le Shuttle trains through the tunnel with their cars face a slightly higher risk, with a death predicted every 540 million journeys, which makes the service seven times safer than an ordinary train journey. The most risk is from either a train collision or a derailment, which are both twice as likely to cause a death than fire.

An accident resulting in 10 or more people being killed would occur no more than once in 1,000 years, Eurotunnel said - and accidents in which 70 or more deaths are likely happen no more than once in 100,000 years.

Department of Transport statistics for the past decade show that the death rate for passengers on ferry and other shipping services is about 40 times greater than that for conventional rail travel.

The safety report considered every conceivable risk, including earthquake, flooding, fires, power failure and explosions as well as rail accidents.

The tunnel is due to be officially opened by the Queen and President Mitterrand on Friday. Freight services are likely to start later this month and passenger services later in the summer.