A major advance in the way programmed logic and interactive visual displays are used to handle emergencies in the Channel Tunnel was demonstrated on June 15, when Eurotunnel formally opened its Rail Control Centre simulator at the Folkestone terminal.

The simulator has been developed as a turnkey project by Alstom and Alcatel, with a synoptic panel supplied by Barco of Belgium.

Among changes made after the HGV shuttle fire in November 1996 was an overhaul of the Engineering Management System to reduce the workload on the EMS controller, who is responsible for ventilation and smoke control as well as electrical plant. Due to serious errors in closing the crossover doors and activating fans at the coastal shafts, the coach carrying lorry drivers was enveloped in smoke for 25min, preventing escape into the service tunnel.

The response to a fire alarm on an HGV shuttle now requires evacuation. The Channel Tunnel is reconfigured immediately for smoke control, and logic ensures this is done swiftly and correctly. For example, closing the crossover doors requires only two clicks on the screen instead of 24.

The simulator now allows this and many other procedures to be reproduced off-line, allowing regular retraining of Eurotunnel’s 56 RCC staff. It can also be used to reproduce and test conditions under which the Tunnel is passing 24 trains/h in each direction. At the moment, throughput is limited by the Safety Authority to 12 trains/h.

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