Eurotunnel needs new radio technology 'very quickly' to avoid train chaos

Eurotunnel has been urged to implement a new radio technology system "very quickly" because operators using the Channel Tunnel have been unable to communicate remotely with on-board managers when trains are in the tunnel.

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Eurotunnel has been urged to implement a new radio technology system "very quickly" because operators using the Channel Tunnel have been unable to communicate remotely with on-board managers when trains are in the tunnel.

The company, which operates the tunnel, in December signed a €21.5 million (£18.9 million) contract to upgrade the Channel Tunnel communications system, just days before heavy snow near tunnel entrances led to trains breaking down in the tunnel.

The trains were out of reach of radio signals for remote customer communications systems, meaning the train crew could not receive the information they needed to keep passengers informed on what was happening.

The new radio system, from supplier Alcatel-Lucent, will be used to improve communications with trains in the 31 mile tunnel, but will not be operational for another two years.

An independent review was commissioned on what happened and how Eurostar, the train operator that pays Eurotunnel to use the track, dealt with the situation. It found that an inadequate communication system in the Channel Tunnel, managed by Eurotunnel, played a significant role in the chaos that angered passengers.

Train staff had seemed unaware of what was happening, passengers had said, while the trains were stuck in the tunnel and drivers were tackling the technical problems.

The only communications infrastructure available was a radio link between the train driver and the Eurotunnel Rail Control Centre (RCC), used to provide technical and operational advice to the driver in the case of breakdown. It does not link to Eurostar’s own control centres, the Eurostar Independent Review found.

The report criticised Eurostar for the "appalling" conditions, and for other failures including not protecting its engines from the weather. Some 2,500 passengers were stranded in the tunnel for up to five hours.

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