Rail union RMT warned today that tests using a Deutsche Bahn ICE (Inter City Express) train in the Channel Tunnel in October this year could open the door for other European operators to serve the UK and bring in a major dilution of current safety standards.
Under current safety regulations trains running through the Channel Tunnel must be at least 375 metres long – the DB sets, known as the ICE-3, are only 200 metres long. Current regulations also stipulate that trains must have inter-connecting fire doors to enable in-tunnel evacuation. The DB trains do not, creating an immediate and obvious safety risk. The trains also fail to match up with the escape system operational in the Channel Tunnel.
Eurotunnel, which owns the Channel Tunnel, have confirmed that the tests would be taking place, but have said that the Channel Tunnel Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) is the arbiter for safety. RMT are warning that they may be prepared to dilute safety in the interests of expanding privatisation and liberalisation to comply with EU directives.
DB are also expected to bid to buy out the High Speed Line (HS1) between Folkestone and London which is up for sale in a desperate ConDem flogging off of a public asset for which the Government is hoping to raise around £1.5 billion even though it cost at least £7 billion to build. DB is certain to want to run competing rail services to London before the Olympics in 2012.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: “RMT will fight any watering down of safety standards on the Channel Tunnel High Speed Rail Link – if those standards are tampered with simply in order to appease EU diktat it would be a major scandal with potentially lethal consequences.
“We are being sent a clear signal that European liberalisation takes precedence over staff and passenger safety in the Channel Tunnel as far as the EU are concerned and if the ConDem Government allow this outrage to be bulldozed through they will show themselves to be totally impotent when it comes to dealing with the European Union.”