Posted 18th October 2010 | 5 Comments

Eurostar trains row may move to EU Commission

This mock-up of a future Siemens Eurostar train was displayed briefly in Hyde Park

This mock-up of a future Siemens Eurostar train was displayed briefly in Hyde Park

THE growing French antagonism to the prospect of Eurostar buying German-built trains may soon involve the European Commission, it is reported. The government in Paris and French train builder Alstom are fighting Eurostar's proposal to buy Siemens trains, arguing that they would not be safe.

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bahn is claiming that a test run of an ICE through the Tunnel and a trial evacuation was successful.

The weekend journey under the English Channel included a safety exercise in which 300 people were evacuated. A DB spokesman said the test had been one of a number which will be needed if public services between London and Germany are to begin in late 2013.

An ICE set is due to arrive at St Pancras International tomorrow, where it will be greeted by transport minister Philip Hammond.

The French government is unhappy about the prospect of DB services through the Tunnel, but is reserving most of its ammunition for Eurostar's plan to buy ten Siemens Velaro-D sets for a reported 525 million Euros. A mockup of one of the trains went on display in London earlier this month, and Eurostar is hoping to introduce them on new routes to destinations such as Amsterdam, Geneva and Lyon from 2014.

The present Eurostar fleet is not suitable, on technical grounds, for service in continental countries other than France and Belgium.

The French state operator SNCF owns 55 per cent of Eurostar International, but the Board nonetheless voted to proceed with the Siemens deal.

This decision may now be examined by the European Commission, who are set to hear French arguments that Siemens trains would be unsafe for service through the Tunnel, a claim vigorously opposed by Deutsche Bahn and now, it seems, Eurostar as well.

Competition on the High Speed route to London has been possible since the start of this year, when new rules allowing international open access came into force, ending the monopoly which Eurostar had enjoyed since 1994.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Prestwick, Harlow, UK

    Well they tested the ICE 3 train in the tunnel and they evacuated it within 20 minutes.

    Alstom's Eurostar set was evacuated in 35 minutes during a real emergency in December.

    Alstom's concerns are purely commercial.

  • Dave Boddy, Peterborough

    What r the train evacuation procedures for London underground, or for example the Severn Tunnel. R there evacuation tunnels at less distance than the length of the shortest train. Do we allow powered coaches through these tunnels. Why do we apply one rule to the channel tunnel and another rule for all others. I cannot see the difference: a tunnel is a tunnel. Seems to me that either the channel tunnel rules r sound and thus should be applied retrospectively throughout Europe, or they r not and should be rescinded.
    In addition, I think E* proved they were operating an unsafe service last Christmas, when passengers were trapped on board for unreasonable lengths of time. What happened to E* 's evacuation procedures. All in all, just seems to me to be hypocritical nonsense!

  • Andrew Cardle, Lille, France

    If your argument is that the safety is all in the design I would draw your attention to the importance of the on board staff in the airline industry. I was witness to a Eurostar evacuation outside Lille and wrote to the company at the time that had the incident happened in the tunnel on the basis of the evacuation alone there would have been fatalities. On the 19th December on board one of the five trains stuck in the Tunnel I was very conscious that it was Eurotunnel's staff and safety procedures that "saved the day". I appreciate taht Eurotunnel has a vested interest in seeing increased competition but past performance is the best indicator of future performance and if Eurotunnel say the German Trains our safe I would be inclined to believe them after all there is no other stake holder with a bigger interest in safety than Eurotunnel.

  • Gordon, London, UK

    Simple safety rules, into the tunnel "exit" for pasenger are every 375m , Alstom trains comply fully with this , each traction set are isolated ahead and to the queue of the 400m set, and are in case of fire electric smoke proof from the train set, passenger security distancy is 300m, big fans absorbing smokes allows that,, if a fire come into a engine, the train stop between 2 exit doors 375m, and passengers got enough time to be safely evacuated throughout the train set "smoke proof" to the safest door opposed, how can a train set with big engines under cariage can be safe? engines aren't isolated to passengers sets, how can passengers can be evacuated after 300m security on the bank if its 2 x 200m train sets not allowing passenger to pass into a troughout tube smoke proof safely?

    Safety is important really!

  • Lorentz, London

    This is the best way for the issue to be addressed. A clear directive/ruling from the EU will prevent the protectionist behaviour of the French Government and Alsthom.

    In the long term however, I expect the French will force a change in the make up of the Eurostar board to get what they want that way.