DECEMBER 18th  - see
I know from experience that the company that runs the EuroStar have 'procedures' that may well be worked out with Health and Safety but have no relation to the other needs of passengers or to the infrastructure of transport as a whole.

Information is largely restricted to recorded announcements, the content of which has been approved by liability lawyers. Information that may be available to any given level of management is not passed on for fear that it may be incorrectly transmitted and misunderstood. "Send three and fourpence, we are going to a dance" instead of "Send reinforcements, we are going to a dance" is a story now used to discourage any communication not carried by an approved system. EuroStar staff at the passenger interface are clearly not considered capable, or should not be made liable.

Equally clear is that there is no priority of any sort given to the consequences wider afield of the stoppage of all traffic in the tunnel which of course involves the shuttle and the trucks it carries.

The possibility of a train having a power failure in the tunnel is a generic situation for which there could be an almost infinity of causes, each one extremely rare or unlikely, but together adding up to an inevitability. The exact cause cannot be guessed in advance. One thing is certain: that an independent, differently powered machine should have been available at each end of the tunnel to push or pull any train out of the tunnel without delay. It appears there was not. I dread to think what else may not have been planned.

If we are to hear once again 'Lessons will be learned' I find that a bit depressing as this lesson, the effects of arterial blockage, has been taught and learned so many times. The story of "A Bridge Too Far" was that of a traffic jam, not of the distance of a bridge. The death of all too many individuals arise from a blockage of circulation. If we are incapable of solving problems of basic modus vivendi by means other than growth, we can expect disaster unless we stop fiddling with luxurious levels of protection in theory and ignoring the real world.

The same mentality applies to accidents on our motorways. When there is an accident on a major motorway, a high priority should be to clear the road and get traffic moving, unless there is some reason against this, as soon as photographs have been taken and identities of those involved and their security established so far as possible. It would appear it is not even considered as anything pressing in the immediate list of priorities. The body at risk is the corporate, social, industrial and commercial body that is our country. In seeking perfection at the individual level we make the collective rationality a mess.

I do not wish to bore readers, but an understanding of quantum theory would help. The reason why there is apparent (or real, depending on your point of view) indeterminacy at the quantum level is precisely so there can be rational and predictable operations and measurement at the aggregate or macro level. You cannot have the equivalent determinacy at both and we need it at our level of perception.

DECEMBER 22 2009
I have been travelling without a problem by road from.the East Midlands to Deepest Dorset without any difficulty, only to hear on the radio that apparently I passed through disaster areas where thousands are marooned in vehicles defeated by ice and snow. I guess I was just lucky, saw a lot of snow, sleet and rain and parts where there was nothing, but no problem on the roads. Anyway, back to EuroStar....

It seems EuroTunnel had the necessary locomotives to remove the stranded train but because there is no 'supremo' responsible for seeing that our lifelines are not brought to a halt, and because the operations in the tunnel are managed by three operating companies - Euro Tunnel, Le Shuttle and EuroStar - and 2 countries - decisions were subject to negotiations and considerations that did not extend beyond company policy in relation to the various emergency plans. In reality, by the time 2 trains had lost power in the tunnel it was time for control to pass to a higher level. No chance, as there was no higher level. How could there be. when to get these international operations to work there has always to be a fudge to save national face? Nobody is in charge at the top level, that of ensuring a free flow in the tunnel and the roads leading to it as the ultimate priority.

I do not think it reasonable to expect the engineers to have been able to simulate all possible weather extremes in advance in a wind tunnel. There has to be a point at which the extremes and curiosities of nature cannot be guessed or simulated. I am impressed at the speed at which engineers modified and tested the trains. What is unimpressive is the contingency planning for such and event which in my view was sooner or later inevitable and most likely to occur when surrounding circumstances were at there worst: i.e. a holiday period with extreme weather at a time of unpredictable climate change.

It was nobody's job to prepare for this on an international national scale, for reasons I have mentioned, but on the national scale where the UK is highly vulnerable there should have been intensive planning of emergency transport proceedures so that as soon failing trains and passengers were removed from the tunnel and bussed and trained to their destinations while alternative use of the tunnel was doubled using all working rail transport available. Why is it that from Afghanistan to our own backyard, nobody can do the math these days in their heads? A man who is minister for transport should be a man (or woman) who has the instant advice to hand of those who have the very science of transport and circulation and its economic baggage at their fingertips.

We know they do not, as they manage to employ people to work the illuminated signs on motorways who must have emerged from university with all the qualifications to enable them to get a job sitting oin their arses working computers, but no knowledge of roads, weather, motoring or the united kingdom. The surest way to get killed is to pay attention to signs that having warned about fog over a 20-mile section clear as spring, then tell you it is now clear - that means you are about to run into a pea-souper. I have started to log the occasions.

On the other hand I have little time for those who expect their trips and flights to be guaranteed free of accidents, delays, death or catastrophe.These things can happen no matter what we do. The public are spoiled beyond belief, with every man jack of them having more privilege than a king of a century ago. Engineers, pilots, drivers, maintenance crews bust a gut to make things safer while they are asked to make them faster as well and keep it cheap. The right to travel is taken for granted, with the unexpected corollary that all the world is drawn into competition to be the destintion and the chauffeur, the financier and the resturateur of choice. Travel has become a drug as well as a utility. We actively encourage it, deal in it an profit from the excess. Supply and demand are no longer a local equation, and good can come of that, but abuse is possible. We have to decide as a planetary society if we are going to enshrine the right to travel or to cost it in a variety of scenarios and thereby limit it, or to ration it or, failing any of these, to invent methods of transport that are not only less damaging but less congestive and therefore less likely to cause thrombosis to the economic and social corporation.

JANUARY 28th 2010
Having listened to The Report, BBC Radio 4 today, I have to say I am amazed by the general low level of intelligence of some of the people interviewed in this programm at the managerial level in Euro Tunnel. The fact that all UK train drivers were on strike did not, we are told by Eurostar, have any effect on things. However, all in all I shall close this file here. There were clearly a few excellent people who did their best under difficult circumstamces, and rather more who are clearly overpaid, under-educated examples of the worst of British. Presumably these are the products of our current education system, probably all with university degrees. God help us. The safety systems were probably very good. The individuals in charge probably become more and more moronic and detached from reality the more these systems are designed to cover everything by rote and automation and require no brains on behalf of the overpaid supervisors and operatives.