Posted 14th October 2010 | 10 Comments
First German ICE enters Channel Tunnel
A DEUTSCHE Bahn ICE train has run into the Channel Tunnel on the first of several tests in anticipation of the formal arrival of an ICE at St Pancras next week, when it is set to be welcomed by transport secretary Philip Hammond.
But the ceremony in London, on 19 October, will also be the latest milestone in the continuing friction between the French and German railway administrations, in which Eurostar is somewhere in the middle.
DB has been critical of Channel Tunnel safety rules, which it claims are designed to keep all but French passenger trains out of the Tunnel, in defiance of European Union rules on international open access.
One of the sticking points is the use of distributed traction, with motors under each coach, rather than separate power cars. The rule against distributed traction was intended to avoid the possibility of a motor fire breaking out under a train in the tunnel.
But the Anglo-French Intergovernmental Commission, which is the arbiter on the Chunnel rulebook, is presently consulting on the removal of some of the restrictions, now that the Tunnel has been open for 16 years.
The Eurostar board voted earlier this month to proceed with an order for ten Siemens Velaro-D train sets, which have distributed traction. However, the same is true of the equivalent product from French train-builder Alstom.
The new trains are intended to allow Eurostar to serve more destinations from 2014, probably including Amsterdam and possibly Geneva and Lyon as well. Services between London and German cities such as Frankfurt would also be possible.
Alstom has joined the French government in criticising the Eurostar order on safety grounds. The acquisition was approved, ironically, by a board on which the French state rail operator SNCF has a 55 per cent majority.
The current tests of German ICEs started on 13 October and are understood to include a full evacuation exercise inside the Tunnel on Sunday.
These tests are not merely the overture to next Tuesday's event: they also seem calculated to serve warning on both SCNF and Eurostar that DB intends to make international open access to London a reality -- if it possibly can.
Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.