Fire in tunnel under the English Channel halts Eurostar traffic

When my six-year old son and I pulled into Manhattan on the Amtrak train, and again on a Trailways bus last month, we went underground. I’m not sure where Amtrak goes, but Trailways goes through the Holland Tunnel under the Hudson River in order to deposit passengers into Port Authority terminal.

As we passed through the tunnel, –the Holland Tunnel, he wondered why the river didn’t come caving in on us. Because the tunnel is well lit, you can see the inside of the tunnel perfectly. On the train, it’s dark outside the train’s window for the most part. Looking out the window means looking at your own reflection.

My son’s question was one of those moments when I realized I really didn’t have a clue. Kind of know, but don’t really know, but willing to trust engineering and the principles of physics. As I explained the safety of such a tunnel, I looked at all that expanse of tile and wondered a bit. Actually, I thought of how awful it would be to be stuck in it for any length of time with exhaust fumes spewing if there was a car wreck. That’s when you say to yourself, “Stay in our own lanes, people, and don’t go too fast. Pay attention.”

In the tunnel going under the English Channel yesterday, a wreck didn’t cause the travel snafu, but a fire on a train going between England and France. According to this article, the train was carrying trucks and only 32 people–mostly drivers of those trucks.

For passengers hoping to go through the tunnel on the train, they had to find alternative ways to get to France or stay where they were. Just like weather is something that airlines say they have no control over and won’t fork over assistance, so are fires in train tunnels. Eurostar said that because they have no control over fires they won’t help with plane tickets or hotel rooms. You can, however, get a refund or exchange tickets for another time. (I found this out on the Eurostar Web site.)

Because the fire is still going, trains are not heading through that tunnel today. I bet the ferries are packed with people lucky to snag a ticket. For the rest of the stuck people, lots of luck. (The photo by OliverN5 is of Eurostar trains at the Gard du Nord in Paris, France.)