Averting tunnel train disaster: with the longest railway tunnel in the UK on its ground, Avon Fire and Rescue Service (AFRS) knows the importance of having a contingency plan in place should the worst case scenario occur. Every four years AFRS and its multi-agency partners in England and Wares carry out a full-scale live exercise designed to test these plans.(Disaster Reponse)

IN THE EARLY HOURS OF SEPTEMBER 18, crews were mobilised to reports of a 'derailed train' in the Severn tunnel. Avon Fire and Rescue Service took the lead in organising the most recent Severn Tunnel exercise, codenamed Avon Express. The service worked closely with its colleagues in South Wales Fire and Rescue Service. Altogether 16 agencies were involved in the exercise, which took place at both ends of the tunnel as well as inside.

High Speed Train Crash

When those involved at the English end gathered at Avonmouth Fire Station, Bristol, for a briefing, they knew they were reaching the culmination of months of planning. The importance of having a plan in place for an incident in the tunnel was highlighted in 1991.

On December 7, 1991 a fault in signalling equipment led to a chain of events which ultimately resulted in a high speed train (HST) from London Paddington to Cardiff being hit from the rear by a sprinter train from Portsmouth Harbour to Cardiff. The incident took place about 5,700 yards into the tunnel from the English end, and although there were no fatalities, 185 people on board the trains were hurt. …

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