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Thursday, 9 April, 1998, 00:07 GMT 01:07 UK
Fire chiefs oppose Eurotunnel plan
The 1996 fire started in an open-sided freight carriage
British and French fire authorities are objecting to plans for the operator of the Channel Tunnel to run its own fire service.

Eurotunnel is considering taking over responsibility for fire fighting within the tunnel from the Kent and Calais fire services. But fire chiefs are concerned that safety may be compromised. Teams from the two services helped fight the serious blaze in the tunnel in November 1996.

Speaking after a meeting, the chairmen of the Kent and Calais fire authorities said they regretted the plan.

They said: "We believe it is necessary for the future safety of the tunnel for the travelling public and for our firefighters that the first line of response for the Channel Tunnel should continue to be made by professional firefighters.

"Only public service with the fire and rescue services of Kent and Nord-Pas-de-Calais, who have the qualified personnel, continually trained, complementary to the safety organisations of the two nations and are present 24 hours on site, can assure maximum safety."

They said they would try to persuade the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority and the Intergovernmental Commission, which oversees the tunnel, not to remove the firefighters.

Eurotunnel says safety is its main priority. It said it would not go ahead unless the tunnel authority allowed it to do so. Any change would not take place until 2001.

A spokeswoman for Eurotunnel said: "No decision has yet been made about tunnel fire fighting and we have a three-year consultation process to go through first.

"Whatever decision is made, safety will never be compromised. We want specialist consultants to determine whether we can improve the level of safety or at least maintain the current level."

See also:

30 Jan 98 | Politics
Bank deal helps Eurotunnel
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