Channel Tunnel Railway Line: Electrical Safety

Department for Transport written question – answered on 26th March 2019.

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Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

To ask Her Majesty's Government what investigations they have undertaken into the safety of the proposed 1,000 megawatt direct current cables due to be installed in the rail running tunnels of the Channel Tunnel; what assessment they have made of the risks of a train coming into contact with such cables; what international precedents there are for the safe operation of such cables in close proximity to moving trains; and whether they will require the Channel Tunnel Intergovernmental Commission to publish a full safety case on that proposal before installation of such cables is permitted to commence.

Photo of Baroness Sugg Baroness Sugg Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Safety will always be the key priority for rail. Reflecting this, and in the light of outstanding safety issues, consent for the electricity link project was suspended for safety reasons in October 2017, preventing construction work from continuing to the next stage.

Government is represented by UK officials on both the Channel Tunnel Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) and the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority (CTSA). Both of these groups have been involved with the ElecLink project since it was first presented to the CTSA by Eurotunnel in 2011.

A working group, comprised of members from the UK and French delegations to the CTSA, Eurotunnel and the cable project team, was established and meets frequently to ensure that safety issues associated with the cable installation and its interaction with the Eurotunnel railway operations are addressed. That group has both formally and informally assessed submissions from Eurotunnel, as well as completing site inspections, observing at safety tests and attending and convening specialist working groups.

The CTSA working group is currently in the process of assessing Eurotunnel’s latest safety submission, which requests consent for the project to proceed to the next stage of construction. The IGC has asked Eurotunnel to produce a safety case relating to all relevant factors, including an independently assessed Safety Assessment Report, for submission to the CTSA working group.

No operational precedents for this project have been identified.

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