France Shifts Stance to Allow German Trains Into Channel Tunnel
The French government said it won’t bar Siemens AG (SIE) trains from the Channel Tunnel if Europe’s rail- safety agency backs their introduction, a shift that should clear the way for Deutsche Bahn AG to begin services to London.
France will respect the European Railway Agency’s advice on operations planned by the German state railway using a variant of Siemens’s InterCityExpress train, said a government official who declined to be identified, citing official policy.
The ICE has motors in each car, a system outlawed under current rules because of a perceived fire risk. Former Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau, replaced by Thierry Mariani late in 2010, had said an order for the trains from incumbent tunnel operator Eurostar Group Ltd. should be dropped for that reason.
While a Franco-British Intergovernmental Commission has the final say on any rule change, it’s likely to follow the European agency’s recommendations, the French official said. Deutsche Bahn and Groupe Eurotunnel SA (GET), which operates the 30-mile (48- kilometer) subsea link, carried out tests and evacuation drills in October to support an application for safety approval.
Eurotunnel is counting on new entrants to lift traffic and revenue through the tunnel by adding routes to the current Eurostar services linking London with Paris and Brussels.
Deutsche Bahn aims to introduce trains to Amsterdam, Cologne and Frankfurt from London starting in 2013. Eurostar plans to add the same cities a year later, it said in October after announcing a 700 million-pound ($1.1 billion) fleet upgrade that included a 10-train Siemens order.
“That order still stands and the contracts have been signed,” Eurostar spokesman Leigh Calder said yesterday by telephone, welcoming the French government’s revised stance. “It’s good news that they will respect and abide by the European agency’s recommendations.”
Eurostar, controlled by French state rail operator SNCF, chose the ICE in preference to proposals from Paris-based Alstom SA (ALO), which had also used so-called distributed traction rather than the current system of a locomotive at either end.
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