Sunday, December 20, 2009

Possible explanation for Chunnel train failures

Blame It All On 'Icebergs'

A build-up of snow and ice the size of a mini iceberg under the trains was the most likely cause of the breakdowns, a leading rail expert said last night.

Nigel Harris, editor of Rail Magazine, said: "In very cold conditions you get a rapid build up of snow and ice on the under-frame of a train. When the train then runs into a warm tunnel you've effectively got a 400metre-long iceberg stuck underneath it.

"Rather than it melting slowly, the heat can lead it falling away in one go. That can cause huge damage, tearing away brake pipes and damaging the train's electrical connections."

[end of excerpts]

This sounds like a plausible explanation, but it was evidently a well-known phenomenon, and design changes or procedures should have been adopted to prevent such catastrophic failures. At the very least, no trains should have been allowed to enter the tunnel when the first one developed problems which the management should have realized were a result of the aforementioned phenomenon. Were these "accidental" failures deliberate?

The rest of the article strikes me as overly sensational and untrustworthy. None of the other articles I read gave such a hellish impression of the ordeal. For example, it claims that people had to walk through the dark tunnel and avoid power lines on the ground, while no other articles mentioned this "minor" detail.