CHANNEL TUNNEL & EUROSTAR
DECEMBER 18th - see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8422305.stm
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.