Both Eurostar (which operates the trains) and Eurotunnel (which operates the tunnel) were clearly ill-prepared to handle the breakdowns of trains before Christmas

But their fire safety strategy is in question, too. After the last major fire, in 2008, Eurotunnel is developing a new safety strategy based on moving freight train carriages to an “extinguishing area” where sprinklers will douse the fire and passengers and crew will be evacuated into a (probably) smoke-and-flame-filled tunnel. If the trains can’t move – for up to 16 hours! – this strategy is a nonsense – and a very dangerous one at that. Fires can start and spread rapidly, even in sub-zero temperatures.

There are likely to be more breakdowns and more fires in the tunnel. The question is when, and at what cost?

David Sugden, chairman, Passive Fire Protection Federation