Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by A McGowan (CHT14)


I am grateful for the opportunity to submit evidence to this committee. The service through the Channel tunnel has been affected by the movement of economic migrants for a number of years, in the early days the stowaways were locked in containers from source, but as the years have passed the tactics used to gain access to the UK have changed.

  In recent months the preferred way to access trains destined to the tunnel from France has been to storm the Yard at Fréthun. The groups will storm the yard and trains so that they can access the sheeted loads in the yard. The staff there have been overwhelmed on many occasions. The security boundaries at Fréthun have never been well defined. And even after a fence was erected recently this was of such a poor design that it is easily breached.

  One of the most horrifying ways that the groups gain access to the trains is by jumping on moving vehicles. This is done on trains that are or have departed Fréthun yard and up to speeds of 50 Kph. This has resulted in many injuries and deaths of individuals trying to get to Britain. They have also occupied the four foot (that being the space between the rails that the train rides on) by doing this they bring the train to a stand or near to a stand to allow others to access the wagons. Another way they slow the trains down at precise places is to get one of the people who has gained access to the trains to open the air brake pipe thus slowing the train down sufficiently to allow others to get on board. These groups are organised and it is clear that they know exactly what they are doing working together with the theory that one way or another they will all get their turn.

  For the people who I represent, the train drivers at Dollands Moor, France is an extremely stress full place to be. Train drivers having to face people on the line in front of his train on a daily basis is taking its toll, this is the one greatest fear for a driver to have persons on the line. At this present time I have one of my Drivers taken off tunnel duties because of the effects of stress, additionally to this I have two more on review because of the effects of stress. Their immediate Manger (Traction Inspector) is also on a program for counselling. Many more drivers are complaining about the situation in France. People who would do anything to keep the job running are really concerned about going to France to carry out their duties.

  When in France they are in a hostile environment where they do not speak French. When the situation arises they find that their lack of language disables them from a level of comfort that we would take for granted if we were to be involved in any incident in the UK.

  They have seen over the last few months the traffic through the tunnel plummet. It is concerning to all to see this taking place at a time where confidence in the railway is poor, we have seen many of our customers go else where. They are concerned also for their job security which is stressful, enough to cope with on top of their permanent state of heightened alertness when they are driving trains through the tunnel.

  A video recently shot by one of the drivers showed clearly that once the Clandestines board the trains they do a lot of damage to the wagons and loads. This is not only costly to EWS but is criminal damage. This would not be tolerated in this country however these people are never brought to task for their actions. Some of the goods that we carry have to be dumped because of their actions.

Regional Health & Safety Rep

EWS railways

June 2002

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