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back to article Can anyone explain the chunnel fiasco?

During the weekend channel tunnel fiasco, Eurostar sent five trains into the tunnel and not one came out. Only then did it stop sending trains. Okay. Imagine you're Eurostar's fat controller in charge of despatching trains. Two have gone into the tunnel and not come out. Do you send in trains number three, four, and five? Not …

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They didn't know what was wrong

The reports as I understood them was that to begin with they weren't sure what was wrong. 5 trains had stalled in the tunnel but no-one knew why - had they sent more trains into the tunnel, they could also have been affected if the problem had been with the overhead electrics or the signalling systems; thus causing more of a chaos - at worst a major accident.

The problem wasn't the snow itself, it was the shields preventing snow getting into the electric systems that had failed, even if they'd cleared the snow away there could still have been some underneath the shields which would have melted in the same way. Plus how exactly would you do it? You couldn't get people to do it - they'd have to get too close to the overhead mains lines - a recipe for disaster. If you melted the snow and ice away, well that's what happened anyway.

IMHO they did the right thing - I'd rather not travel at all or travel 2 days late, than travel on a service where my safety couldn't be guaranteed. Better to have 100,000 people delayed than 2,000 dead.

There's a lot we don't know about, that we can only read from the news. Only those working for Eurostar and Eurotunnel that day can tell us the truth. Having said that Eurostar do have a lot to learn - particularly as a remarkably similar incident happened in 2003.

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Anonymous Coward

Correct!

It was not the snow. What happened with the snow that got through the barrier was though that it melted very quickly in the 25 degree heat of the tunnel.

Condensation can be dealt with somehow, but snow that has managed to make it through the louvres into the electrics (i.e. the transformers in the power cars) is not something you can deal with with a broom or snow blower.

We've had this before where our service (the first morning service from Bruxelles) also got stranded in the tunnel together with the first service from Paris and the Le Shuttle for the better part of an hour because the trains were, on the outside, freezing cold and the warm humid air in the tunnel immediately started condensing on everything from the catenary to the ceramic insulators, allowing flashovers to happen and shorting out the electricity supply.

Only once the affected systems dried off did we move on again, at half-speed, to allow the rest to be dried too, and then carried on to Ashford where the service then resumed at full speed. It's better to have an hour's delay or something than having a complete catastrophic failure.

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FAIL

It now transpires....

...that it was all due to the wrong type of snow.

Too fluffy, apparently.

- You couldn't make it up.

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You think you have problems!

Out here in Australia, we have two parallel rail lines running from Melbourne to Albury, and because one is for intrastate passenger services and the other for interstate freight, they operate on separate radio frequencies - and have no way of communicating. So when a freight train derailed and spewed billets of steel all over the passenger track, a passenger train ploughed into it because the message didn't get through in time.

I used the trains in the UK extensively on my last two visits, and everything seems to work incredibly smoothly by our standards. Hold a public enquiry by all means, but don't forget the things that DO work.

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Coat

Just a quick question...

Were they running the LHC at the time ? Because for all we know the whole of the SNCF could have discappeared down that tunnel without as much as 1 train coming out the other side...it's them darned black holes, see...

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Silver badge

You won't catch me down there...

... ever. Glad my LPG car is prohibited. Thank goodness the shorted electrical systems didn't catch fire. I think a public enquiry is required, and humiliation of those responsible for this fiasco.

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Railways

The standard criticism of railways is that they take you from where you don't live to where you don't work.

Thanks to this incompetent bunch, even that's beyond them.

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Megaphone

It's the strike, stupid

For some reason the Chunnel's PR department don't want to mention the strike that was taking place at the same time:

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5iV4cP6sRA0hn4ekJyRJSx5EPDZ6A

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Bronze badge

Snow, Snow Go No Snow

Thhttp://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/fail_32.pnge absence of factual reports from the' villains' of this piece, whoever they may be does mean that one can only go on speculation but if the trains had total power failures then this 'might' also have affected the public address system as well.

If this was the case it is another resounding design and testing failure, if power was not the issue then a clear procedural failure has been revealed.

Given the time it took and the presence of the 'service tunnel', evacuation by 'golf cart' would have taken less than the time some people waited and it is clear that evacuation trains should have run a shuttle service from the tunnel mouth towards either London or Paris.

If we are going into speculation, even a bloke with a leaf blower could have dried the damned things out in the time that they were faffing about.

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Anonymous Coward

Golf cart...

The 'golf cart' train is designed to only evacuate to either side of the tunnel, not as a 'shuttle' service. Considering that there was no fire, and no immediate need for evacuation (although, from a customer perspective there certainly was), the golf cart trains were not needed.

What one does learn from this episode is the same as what GNER had to learn the hard way a few years ago when train passengers demolished the windows on their Mallard services that were stuck on the ECML between Peterborough and Grantham is that humans have a very low tolerance for discomfort, and being stuck in the dark in a hermetically sealed metal tube in 25 to 28 degree heat is very uncomfortable, especially when the comfort zone in said tube is managed by... electrics.

Train designers would be well advised to learn again from this incident to ensure that a) their electric systems do not fail, and b) if they do fail, to ensure that the comfort zone is maintained to a degree by backup systems.

It would be good if Alstom (the train OEM) would weigh in here and either run a test service that will reproduce this problem and then come up with design changes that can be applied to TGV (and its direct derivatives - including Eurostar).

Eurostar will really have to work on their communication and disaster-recovery plans where this is concerned. When there are multiple services stuck in the tunnel and several others cancelled, the amount of people booked on the trains (600+) multiplies significantly. Having three days of no real communication about whether services will be run or not, is terrible from a PR standpoint. The board of the company is irrelevant, it is the PR and operational management side that needed to step in and do something.

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Badgers

Blergh

"Eurostar operates blind when trains are in the tunnel"

I'd say that's probably a fair assesment. The point was probably that they assumed the trains would be moving again at a reasonable point in time.. By the time somebody figured out that was not the case (if they did at all or if the tunnel was just packed full is another debate), you have a major problem.

The signalling question is are the trains likely to bump into each other, if not they'll keep sending them.

Can we also be clear that the problem appears to have been on the french side of the tunnel, you know, the side who's rail systems everyone likes to make a song and dance about how awesome they are for as long as I can remember.

Fact is it's a complicated system under multiple jurisdictions, it's a complicated problem to deal with. The biggest issue is that you're in a tunnel under the sea - sometimes it's gonna go wrong... I've long held the belief that the channel tunnel should be for freight only, but what are you gonna do?

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FAIL

Dreadful article

Speculation heaped upon speculation with nary a fact in sight, scaremongering phraseology ("Eurostar operates blind when trains are in the tunnel", despite the fact that all he's describing is signalling and train operation being run by different business units or companies - standard practice (EU mandated requirement, in fact) in the whole of Europe,) an idiot's guide to signalling written by an idiot, and...

...to cap it all...

...we get an 'our sources said' of great pomposity that turns out to be, err, Wikipedia...

Come on El Reg, surely even you must be embarrassed by that?

Still, I liked the idea of Eurostar putting up "its own red signal at the tunnel entrance." What did you have in mind; one of the local railway children waving their petticoat perhaps?

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Boffin

Um...

But it's a comment piece. Clue's in the sub. Says "Comment" right there in bold at the beginning. Dunno about you but I read comment pieces for the opinion, speculation and shit-stirring - it's what makes them interesting.

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Paris Hilton

An American Werewolf in The Railway Children.

"I liked the idea of Eurostar putting up "its own red signal at the tunnel entrance." What did you have in mind; one of the local railway children waving their petticoat perhaps?"

If it involves a young Jenny Agutter-a-like getting undressed in public then I for one am all in favour. :-)

Paris - no substitute for J.A. but sometimes you just have to take what you can find...

--

Jonathon.

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Yes!

Well done Jonathon. This is the truest thing I've ever read on the internet.

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Flame

Executive summary: positive thinking

The idiot in charge of Eurotunnel procedures has been thinking happy thoughts. The triumph of positive thinking as prophesized by corporate wellbeing gurus exemplified. Halleluiah...

Unfortunately noone will learn from the lesson.

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Joke

More importantly

for the pointy hired ones. Has the Chunnel maintained five 9s uptime ,If not why not, the salesman said it would :-)

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@gulfie

Gulfie is, of course, quite right.

Although somewhat more advanced than the standard BR signalling systems/IECCs, the LGV signalling as used on the Channel Tunnel lines is in principle still basic fixed-block signalling as used elsewhere on the network and described by Gulfie. The only fundamental difference is that in-cab signalling is used rather than trackside lights, and if I remember rightly the in-cab signal presents a target speed rather than 'red'/'double yellow'/'yellow'/'green' etc.

(I omitted the sad experiment that was 'flashing green' - if only that had been allowed to go ahead my journey home on the ECML tomorrow would be that much quicker...]

[The LGV signalling blocks are approx 1km each, which is where this daft '60 trains in the tunnel' figure presumably comes from - 30 blocks on eack track.]

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Get over it

So a few people with big mouths got stuck on a train, stuff breaks down in odd situations, tech isn't perfect, humans are not in absolute control of everything.

Simply put. Shit Happens!

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Anonymous Coward

Customer Care

As others have said having five trains in the tunnel is understandable (the signalling allows them all in and keeps them safe (from eachother!).

The real problem was evacucation and care - no reason why they can't carry enough bottled water on each train for these scenarios. Just before they go out of date replace them and sell the old ones in the buffet if you're concerned about cost. The space can easily be made or found.

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The great thing about being a journalist...

No doubt mistakes were made, but the beauty of being a journalist (or a commentator for that matter) is that you can pass judgement on others safe in the knowledge that you won't ever get called upon to manage situations like this in real life with all the complexities, pressure, confusion and constraints that apply.

The way to sort these things out is a properly constituted enquiry which can spend time interviewing the people involved and have something more than a superficial set of facts.

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Boffin

@anonymous coward

Err, that should be 'red', 'yellow', 'double yellow', 'green' of course, in order of most restrictive to least restrictive aspect. I switched yellow and double yellow around...

Since I'm correcting myself anyway, for the benefit of a few people who seem to think that the LGV lines use illuminated signals, they do not - signalling is presented in-cab, and for bloody good reason.

High-speed trains take a long time to stop. This means you either need (a) very long signal blocks, so that the distance of the block is adequate for the train to slow down when it meets a restrictive signal, or (b) you need more signal indications, allowing you to slow the train down in smaller steps. Longer signal blocks means fewer trains on the lines (== reduced capacity) so there are tradeoffs to be made here.

The standard on British high-speed lines is 4-aspect signalling. Red-yellow-double yellow-green as described above. "Green" means 'go at maximum line speed', "red" means stop, and the yellow/double yellow in between are speed grades in between.

When the IC225 trains (max speed ~ 140mph) were introduced on the East Coast Main Line, BR's solution to allowing them to reach their maximum speed was to introduce a fifth signal aspect - the 'flashing green' signal, rather than reduce capacity across the entire line by lengthening the signal blocks (not to mention the inordinate expense of resignalling the entire route like that.)

It was then decided that in practice drivers could not be expected to respond to trackside signals at over 125mph, and the fifth aspect was abandoned - for this reason the ECML IC225s have never actually run in service at their top speed, and are limited to 125mph. From that point on it was mandated that for higher speeds the signalling must be presented in-cab.

Now, the point of this little anecdote is this - on the LGV lines, the same capacity/signal block length tradeoffs need to be made, but the problem is even more acute because the trains run even faster. So the solution is the signalling has even more aspects - something like 7 different signals between 'maximum line speed' and 'stop'. These are presented in the cab of the train as a target speed, rather than a colour.

So you see, the idea of trackside signalling something like this is nuts. You'd need a signal pole with a ridiculous number of lights on - 'flashing mauve', anyone? - so, no, it's not quite as simple as "Now you might think in an emergency like this you could drive a little slower and even use an extra driver in case one could not see a big bright red light in the pitch black." A train with in-cab signalling is something of a requirement.

On another note - the reason this isn't a problem in Canada is that (a) you could outrun a Canadian train with a camel and (b) the cost-benefit calculation for dealing with something that happens every day rather than every 15 years is rather different.

And bad as the weather here is, we don't get a lot of snow in summer, so probably no great danger to the Olympics...

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FAIL

ECML - what a wasted opportunity

Imagine the increased capacity of full speed 225s plus moveable block. What did we get - a service unfit for cattle.

criminals

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Paris Hilton

Sounds like the LTS Line aka Misery line in the 90s

Ah, it reminds me of major failures on the Late Tardy and Slow, sorry, London Tilbury & Southend Railway in the 1990s. Now called C2C (Crap-2-Customers).

Dozens of trains all queuing to be disembarked at Laindon (a tiny station), Thousands queuing 5 deep along the entire outside concourse, Two station staff moving secretly in duffle coats when they had to and hiding at every other chance. The funny bit was when a bus pulled in to drop off some people from a day trip and was mobbed on the assumption he was a rail relief bus.

This crisis and many others like it got no mention on the Radio to our waiting families, no mention in the press afterwards, no meaningful announcements during the entire fiasco. Not wartime spirit - more mushroom management.

Possit: Did Ken Bird (the leader of their incompetence IIRC) go and work at EuroTunnel/Star?

Paris Ofcourse, due the classic visual imagery of trains & tunnels.

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Where's the anti-Google angle

Well, come on Google, the trains aren't going to fix themselves, are they?

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FAIL

the 'offical line'

I listened to a senior director on the Jeremy Vine show yesterday (yes, I'm sorry, I know that JV is a right PIA) . . this bloke spouted the most unbelievable bullshit.

The show had several calls from people who were stuck on these trains, this director dismissed these as 'hearsay'.

The show's resident lawyer rang in to point out that these were 'eye witness accounts' not hearsay and as such were permissible as evidence in a normal court of law.

All in all I don't think Eurostar or Eurotunnel give a flying whatsit about their passengers. I know myself and the family suffered from the second major lorry fire closure about 3 years ago. This was after the 1st and would 'never happen again due to improved incident handling procedures'.

All in all a right set of twunts.

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Black Helicopters

Under Siege 3: Under the Channel

I mean really, this whole idea of melting snow shorting the electronics is doubtful - that would mean the trains wouldnt work in the rain either.

What really happened was the secret services got a tip-off that there were terrorists with a nuke on the Eurostar. So they stopped the trains in the tunnel, reasoning that if they couldnt do something about it it would be preferable for it to detonate under the sea bed rather than in a populated area. Out of the 5 trains, the1st, 2nd & 3rd were just normal trains full of irate passengers unaware of the real situation, to provide a cover story for the media once they were extracted. Having hung around to report on 3 lots of trains and collect more than enough soundbites about how it was a disgrace and that Brunel was turning in his grave, the media would be bored and go home. The 4th train had the nuke on it, but the terrorists hadn't counted on one man on a (rail-based) booze cruise:

Casey Ryback.

Setting his facial expression to "Concerned" he did what he does. The 5th train was full of special forces and bomb technicians, who arrived just too late to see Ryback roundhouse kick the lead terrorist into a crate of smashed Absinthe bottles, dying just slowly enough to hear Ryback quip "This service terminates here - Take a replacement bus to hell" as he flicks a cigarette to ignite the alcohol. Then Erika Eleniak pops out of a big gateau and we see her boobs. Fin.

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FAIL

Eurostar board not fit for purpose?

A closer look at the Eurostar board may offer clues as to how this farce came about.

(http://www.eurostar.com/UK/uk/leisure/about_eurostar/management_team.jsp)

There's a Chairman and CEO as you'd expect, plus Legal, HR, Finance, Commercial, Communications and Customer Service directors. What we don't have is a Chief Engineer, Director of Engineering or anyone that comes close to being directly responsible for the technical and engineering aspects of running this transport business. Not even the Chief Operating Officer has a technical background - coming instead from Marketing and Customer Services roles.

It seems clear that this top team exists solely to maximise revenue for its stakeholders and any dissenting voices that could raise potentially expensive inconvenient truths (such ineffective train wintering protection or emergency evacuation plans not being fit for purpose) are kept well in the background - presumably to be replaced by insurance covering against all "unprecedented" events.

A modern business model probably taught on all the best MBA courses.

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FAIL

warm air.

You say that Eurotunnel are 'choosing' (your words) to use warm air in the tunnels.

They either use the ambient air temperature in the tunnels; which is over 30C -without- trains (the trains have megawatt class energy consumption) adding even more heat. Or at least it was In 1993, the last time I was walking around down there. It's warm underground; just ask miners and tunnelers, this is a 'well known fact' (tm).

Or, I suppose, they could -choose- to try and aircon the whole tunnel, yeah.. that would reduce ticket prices and save the planet at a stroke.

Note. Trains do not push air 'through' the tunnel, that would waste huge amounts of energy in friction with the tunnel walls. Instead air passes around the trains in a much shorter loop using the service tunnel and special automatic vent systems between that and the running tunnels.

Also: There can be up to 10 trains in the tunnel at any one time. Trains are passed through in batches. Trains approaching the tunnel entrance need a good few KM to stop. There are only two sets of crossover points and these take time to open/close because they have BIG security/safety doors separating the tunnels. In short.. five all getting stuck together at once is extreme but not improbable or deliberate.

The real issue is why their electrical systems were so poorly insulated against water ingress, and why this had not been noticed and corrected in the 15 years leading up to this; I'd be willing to bet there have been some indications that water/snow was getting into the works before now.

But of course, a real engineer would have worked all that out and written a better article than this. And a real journalist would have researched it better; but a troll would just make a story up anyway out of half-truths and misinformation. Sorry; but that's how it looks to me.

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Anonymous Coward

Once again, correct!

The issue about poor insulation is something that needs to be asked of the OEM - Alstom.

Alstom built the trains before the service commenced, basing them off their successful TGV model. The only thing I can think of is that SNCF does not have 30-mile long tunnels on their LGVs that they send their services on, or, if they do, have managed to come up with a solution but simply not shared it with the competition (i.e. Eurostar).

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Anonymous Coward

@Steven Jones

"No doubt mistakes were made, but the beauty of being a journalist (or a commentator for that matter) is that you can pass judgement on others safe in the knowledge that you won't ever get called upon to manage situations like this in real life with all the complexities, pressure, confusion and constraints that apply."

It's not about "passing judgement". It's about people who take on the jobs of running railways who then fail to deliver. If you can't cut it, go and find something else to do.

I've seen enough of the railways, that I only use them when I'm drunk or going into London. The car does a more reliable and cheaper job.

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hmmmmm

So why do they *need* to use warm air in the tunnel??? to say nothing about power/co2 wastage, etc....

Surely if external *cold* air was used, there would have been no problems??? I'm sure the workers have all their cold weather gear on for outside work, why should the chunnel be different??

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Anonymous Coward

Have you ever been underground?

It's not that the Channel Tunnel uses warm air out of necessity. It is because the earth is warm, and it occurs naturally. Ask any miner - The deeper they go, the hotter it gets. And yes, the bedrock that the tunnel runs through is fairly deep already and dissipates heat into the nearest space that makes a temperature differential - the tunnel.

The tunnel is well-ventilated, well-drained, and by doing so, the differential will continue to exist. Additionally, the air in the tunnel is rotated/moved by train movement, and the minute that stops, the air stops moving (other than what is moved by extraction) and starts warming up to ambient temperature (in the tunnel its around 30 degrees). And anything in the tunnel will warm up to the same ambient temperature, so the trains warm up as well.

So a freezing cold train entering a warm, moist atmosphere will cause immediate condensation, and once that stops, the moisture will evaporate again where it can.

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@ AC 11:36

The tracks are 32 miles each, that's just over 50 km, so sixty blocks would be 860 metres long or so. Sounds like about 1 km to me..... and hardly a 'daft' figure.

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FAIL

2 engines

Please, correct me if I'm wrong - but on the Eurostar, there is an engine at the front and at the back? Surely both can't of failed in exactly the same way (for a start, the venting would be around the other way, and the bit at the back would have had all the debris blown away by the rest of the train?).

So, erm, couldn't they just fire it up and go backwards?!

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Anonymous Coward

Let me correct you then...

... It's not the ingress of snow that's the problem. It's the ambient humidity of the tunnel against the ambient temperature of the train's exposed parts (power car, electric equipment, etc which is air cooled) - In the freezing temperatures in France/Belgium, the outer skin and anything exposed to the cold air at 300 kph will chill down to the ambient temperature outside. When it hits the warm (25C) and humid air of the tunnel, it causes condensation. Add to it any snow that may have been able to pass through the snow barriers that are fitted, and that snow melts, you suddenly have electric equipment that shouldn't be wet, but is.

Water + electricity = short circuits. Short circuits = train stops until short circuit goes away by drying the water off. So both power cars would definitely be affected, regardless of their orientation.

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Father Ted ?

Sounds like the Tunnel of Goats at Craggy Islands theme park..... Goats might have worked out that sending in more trains was not a good idea.

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@AC

Thanks for that explanation. The article did look extremely amateurish.

One aspect of the cab signalling system is that trains can run closer together at lower speeds. You can only get maximum capacity through the tunnel by running trains (pasenger, freight and shuttles) one behind another at more or less the same speed, so it is completely unrealistic to wait for one train to pop out the other end before allowing the next one to enter.

Incidentally the tunnel has forced ventillation (as you would expect) but it is not pressurised as there is nothing to seal the ends.

Btw didn't L&CR get taken over by the DfT in preparation for privatisation?

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Badgers

Cramming more badgers in the tunnel...

Because we're all nerds here...

Trains can indeed run closer together at lower speed - this is not a factor of in-cab signalling though per se, it's a factor of signal block length.

The speed limit in the tunnel is relatively low - something like 100mph; the signal blocks inside the tunnel are therefore shorter inside the tunnel than on the high-speed sections, because the stopping distances are lower, and so trains run closer together.

You get the same effect with good old fashioned signalling - one place where it's incredibly obvious is on the London tube. Because trains slow down and stop at stations, the signal blocks get progressively shorter (and the speed limit correspondingly lower) the closer you get to a tube station, and then longer as you move away from it (so the longest block will be in the middle between the two stations.) This allows them to cram more trains in the tunnels.

The 'incredibly obvious' part is this: It means trains have to slow down to a near crawl or stop at a tube station even if the station is closed - so if you're wondering why your Victoria line train at the weekend still stops at Warren Street even though they've closed the station, it's because the signal blocks are as short as possible around the station to cram as many trains onto the track, and short signal blocks means speed limits - something like 5MPH within the station I think.

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The met office are wrong

It was very, very fluffy snow. Very fluffy indeed.

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@Anonymous Coward (14:27)

"It's not about "passing judgement". It's about people who take on the jobs of running railways who then fail to deliver. If you can't cut it, go and find something else to do."

So running it just fine for 15 years doesn't count? Newsflash: this is the FIRST time a Eurostar train—as opposed to an HGV shuttle—has EVER failed completely in the Channel Tunnel. Ever. Since 1994.

As trains are timed to go through the Channel Tunnel (known as "flighting"), with each batch squeezed between the Le Shuttle services, the fact that five trains (all from the French side), failed in quick succession isn't actually all that surprising. Having just driven to Italy from London over the weekend, I can personally attest to the near-blizzard conditions I drove through on the French side. (And the *five hours* of tailbacks on the A2 into Dover on the English side, come to that.)

The Eurostar trains, contrary to the ill-informed media, are NOT "cutting edge" they're based on 1980s TGV technology. Back then the French TGV network had a notable lack of 31-mile-long, deep and rather warm undersea tunnels. They use seawater pumped through the tunnels to reduce the heat in the tunnels, so they're well aware of the heat issues. Given that the UK and France weren't known for their arctic weather at the time the line was built—rain, yes; long periods of sub-zero temperatures with heavy blizzards? Not so much—it's unfair to claim that they should have predicted this perfect storm of events.

After all, it's not as if England's entire road and rail infrastructure doesn't shut down completely the moment a centimetre of snow drifts onto our roads and railways, is it? Oh, that's right: it does!

As another chap pointed out earlier: shit happens. We're not perfect, and neither is our technology. If you think rail is a terrible way to cross the Channel, by all means tell that to the survivors of the "Herald of Free Enterprise". (And the umpteen airplane crashes over the years too.)

Nothing's perfect. Deal with it and stop whining.

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Joke

Snowballs!

It wos the Al-Qaeda snowball battalion pelting the train with snowballs that dun it!

The fiends!!

<parks Humvee - draws gun>

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Boffin

Fluffy snow?

dust off your physics textbooks:

Hot air can accommodate higher partial pressure of water vapour than cold air. So on such a cold day as that, I bet that a few electronic boards in the train were rather cool. Which means that when entering a tunnel with warm air, the gaseous water in the air (which likely had low relative humidity - but probably not low enough that it would prevent condensation as various electronic had low enough temperature that the saturation humidity near it was lower that the absolute humidity of the air blown to the tunnel). And condensation on electronic boards causes a hell lot of problems, big part of which are permanent and re-setting the circuits won't fix them.

Arguments about fluffy snow not being removed effectively sound silly - I doubt that intense rain can't penetrate into the train parts that the snow could when melted (thus they are probably fairly well protected), and any short circuiting of the 3kV lines used for powering the trains would result in a big spark, immediately vapourising the water; all of the train systems are protected against such sparks as they are fairly common (when starting up the train, when switching tracks, etc, etc).

Conclusion: Eurostar is talking shit and putting bigger, better snow screens is not likely to help in similar circumstances. Employing people who aren't idiots and won't use the 'hot' setting on the air blower during such a cold day will most definitely help.

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Five stalled trains

Maybe all five trains had entered the tunnel before the first one stalled? DUH!

They don't wait for each train to come out the other end before sending the next one in, you know. Eurostar screwed up royally in its response, but Mr Mellor's commentary might also benefit from a little application of thought.

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Push-pull?

Since one loco pulled two joined trains out, I wonder if they couldn't have just put a diesel loco or two at each end of the mess, carefully joined the 5 stalled trains together end-to-end and push-pulled the whole lot (slowly) home to Blighty?

There's probably a good reason why not, I know (I'm not enough of an anorak to know if that's really feasible) but it seems just as likely given all the other apparent failings that it simply never occurred to them to try it.

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@ "Stop whining" comments

Whilst the article does seem to be under-researched, I don't think "stop whining" is appropriate.

If a plane was designed to survive loss of one engine; but it eats a flock of geese which was something that couldn't reasonably be prevented; and the pilot manages to ditch safely through great flying; and the cabin crew ensure the passengers are all out safely; and safety staff are onsite ASAP to rescue you: then yes, "stop whining" is appropriate.

But when the train stops through a simple failure to properly waterproof the electrics, that's negligence. When the staff on the trains make no effort to protect their passengers but instead deliberately barricade themselves away, that's negligence. When there's no basic provision for passenger health in the event of an accident (up to 16 hours in 30-degC heat with no water supply is unacceptable), that's negligence. When there's no adequate rescue plan in the event of an accident, that's negligence. Just *one* of these things working would have made "stop whining" appropriate, because people would have been in a situation where they knew they could survive until help arrived. But no, every possible cockup was managed, and not a single one can be blamed on outside influences.

Even the blame on the snow doesn't hold true. So fine snow gets through the grilles, does it Mr Eurostar? Tell me, why doesn't fine rain also get through the grilles? Answer: of course it does. So the trains have been at constant risk of shorting out through water ingress since their design, and it's only luck that it's not happened more. Almost certainly, they've relied on the engine heat evaporating any incoming water before it gets too far in, so the cause is quite simply negligent design. Even a moderate IP rating on the electrics would have completely prevented this.

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Silver badge

Bah!

"There can be only one explanation?"

Not so. There's yours, and there's the more likely one that Chunnel Trainz Am Uz simply lifted a page from the playbook of the Long Island Rail Road, which has a standard operating practice of driving perfectly good trains up tp badly crippled ones, then saying "oops, we need to back up. No wait, That'll take twenty minutes to organize. We'll just wait. No, we'll be here all night if we do, so backing up it is. Except: No! But Yes! Wait, the broken train has rusted away leaving the path clear. Funny how the time flies when you're a bunch of brainless tw*ts with zero capacity to learn from previous fiascoes innit?"

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Silver badge

Bah!

"There can be only one explanation?"

Not so. There's yours, and there's the more likely one that Chunnel Trainz Am Uz simply lifted a page from the playbook of the Long Island Rail Road, which has a standard operating practice of driving perfectly good trains up to badly crippled ones, then saying "oops, we need to back up. No wait, That'll take twenty minutes to organize. We'll just wait. No, we'll be here all night if we do, so backing up it is. Except: No! But Yes! Wait, the broken train has rusted away leaving the path clear. Funny how the time flies when you're a bunch of brainless tw*ts with zero capacity to learn from previous fiascoes innit?"

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Anonymous Coward

Fluffy Snow

What I want to know is how the UK met.office can identify how fluffy the snow is (or not) in northern France!

The UK weather radar network doesn't extend to France, and even if it did, the radars are basic reflectivity types which can't distinguishe between the different types of precipitation (rain, hail, snow) let alone be able to distinguish between different grades of a single type of precipitation.

Perhaps some other method was used...

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