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Eurotunnel Le Shuttle (sometimes shortened to Le Shuttle or The Shuttle) is a railway shuttle service between Coquelles (near Calais) in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France and Cheriton (near Folkestone) in Kent, United Kingdom. It conveys road vehicles (including bicycles and motorcycles) and passengers (including some animals) by rail through the Channel Tunnel. Freight vehicles are carried in separate shuttle trains hauled by the same locomotives.
The service is owned and operated by Getlink, the Channel Tunnel owners.
Both the terminals are provided with passport and vehicle check in booths, a large convenience outlet, long loading platforms and a loop of track. Upon arrival, having booked beforehand or not, vehicles can check in (in separate freight/passenger booths), make their way to the outlet (except freight) and go through various passport checks once the train has arrived and boarding has commenced. The train is unloaded and loaded again in just over half an hour. Various safety announcements are played and the train departs once the loading wagons are stowed. After a train comes out of the tunnel (after 22 minutes), it travels around the loop and stops at the terminal platform. It is then unloaded, and re-loaded with a new set of vehicles to go through the tunnel again. Once at the other end, vehicles can simply drive off of the train onto the French Autoroute or the British Motorway. The complete journey takes at least one and a half hours between the motorways, with the crossing being 35 minutes.
The rail loop at Folkestone is clockwise and is mostly in a cut and cover tunnel, while the loop at Coquelles is anti-clockwise and in the open. This evens the wear on the wheels of the shuttle locomotives and vehicles, as each set (left or right) spends only half the time at the outer edge of the line traversing the corners. Because of the land space available, the French loading platforms are designed so that they can be entered and exited in two directions and by both freight and passengers.
A Eurotunnel Shuttle train is about 775 metres long and is made from constructive stainless steel. The carriages used for the shuttle have a larger loading gauge than either British or French railways, so that they can accommodate vehicles and the stabilisation equipment used when loading. As a result, they cannot travel outside the tunnel and the two terminals onto the national railways. The carriages are open all the way down when loading but are closed off individually when the train sets off.
Passenger vehicles, such as cars, minibuses and coaches are carried in a car shuttle train, made up of closed wagons. The rear half of the train carries cars and other low vehicles in double-deck wagons, with the first and last two carriages of the section containing the access ramps. Coaches, buses and other high vehicles travel in the single-deck rake at the front of the train. In busy times, cars can also use this section. Eurotunnel will occasionally run the double deck carriages at "half full", closing the top deck to reduce costs.
Drivers and passengers can leave their vehicles and walk along the train to use the toilets, but there are no other services on board. Passengers must either stay in their cars or stand next to them, because the gradients in the tunnel mean that there is a dangerous possibility that vehicles could unexpectedly roll back and forth and hit someone, if their respective owners forget to turn on the parking brake. The toilets are provided in every third carriage in the double-deck section, and in the first and last carriages in the single-deck section.
Large goods vehicles are carried on semi-open wagons with an outer lattice frame, and the shuttle train has a separate passenger carriage at the front of the train for the drivers of the lorries to relax. After the lorry drivers board the train in their lorry, with the cab being enclosed in a metal frame and chocked in place, they are taken to the "club car" at the front of the train by bus. At the end of the journey, they are taken back to their lorries by bus once again and they can drive off the train to continue their journey.
Safety regulations require two locomotives for all shuttle trains through the tunnel, one at the front and one at the back, and both must be staffed so that the train can be reversed out in case of a blockage. On shuttle trains, two Class 9 locomotives handle a single shuttle train. Each locomotive is capable of hauling the train on its own in the event that its partner fails. In the event that both locomotives fail, the next scheduled train and its two fully functioning locomotives has sufficient power to move both its own load and the disabled train through the tunnel. Diesel locomotives are also on hand at both terminals in case they are needed to help a train out. There are also attendants in shuttle trains that manage the vehicles, loading and interior functions. On freight vehicle shuttles, the attendants ride in the passenger carriage at the front of the train with the truck drivers; in the passenger vehicle shuttles, they patrol the train. The trains are also long enough so that no matter where in the tunnel, the length of the train spans two evacuation doors into the service tunnel adjacent to the rail tunnels.
Passenger vehicle carriages are sealed off with fireproof doors and are pressurised. These doors are closed once all vehicles are loaded. They include smaller pedestrian doors that may be opened when the train is in motion to move from one carriage to the next but then close automatically.
Eurotunnel has been criticised for failing to implement measures to prevent or extinguish fires in the open-framed large-goods-vehicle-carrying wagons; recommendations made by the Fire Brigade Union in 1996 following a fire in the Channel Tunnel – that closed wagons should be used to prevent the spread of fire – were not acted upon.
Newer safety regulations have been tightened and relaxed. For one, trains are no longer required to have a locomotive at each end, just a driving cab at each end, as a rescue locomotive could assist a stricken train and the train does not need to split into sections. The new Eurostar e320 has no power cars and instead has power supplied throughout the train. On the other hand, to stop the spread of fires, the formerly full lattice steel freight shuttle wagons now only cover the cab, and checks are carried out at each end of the tunnel to stop the risk of another fire happening in the future.
- "Eurotunnel homepage". Retrieved 5 April 2011.
- Owen, Ed (18 September 2008). "Channel Tunnel fire made worse by open wagons". New Civil Engineer. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
- Jones, Sam (18 September 2008). "Eurotunnel did not follow safety recommendations made after previous blazes | Travel". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
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