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MORE FALLOUT FROM FIRE

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LONDON-Eurotunnel P.L.C. must simplify its complex safety procedures and improve staff training for emergencies, according to a report by the Anglo-French Channel Tunnel Safety Authority.

The report, released last week, May 13 said that the more than 200 million pounds($326.7 million) in insured damage caused by last November's fire on a freight train in the Channel Tunnel could have been mitigated.

The Authority blamed Eurotunnel's overly complex emergency procedures and inadequate staff training.

Eurotunnel's lead insurer, Union des Assurances de Paris, declined to comment on the report.

A Eurotunnel spokeswoman said the company accepts "the main thrust of the Safety Authority's report" and added that the bulk of the recommendations relate to measures Eurotunnel already has implemented or plans to put in place.

Eurotunnel's own investigation prompted it to issue new policies and procedures (BI, April 14).

The Safety Authority report addressed the safety procedures in place before the fire (BI, Nov. 25, 1996), not the adequacy of ones Eurotunnel introduced after the fire.

While passenger services resumed shortly after the fire, Eurotunnel is still awaiting permission to resume cargo services, which are operated on special freight-only trains.

However, the Safety Authority decided there were insufficient grounds to require Eurotunnel to stop using the controversial open-sided freight wagons, which some safety experts claim could fan a fire on board a train.

Among the Safety Authority's key recommendations are that Eurotunnel should:

Improve staff training to cope with emergencies.

Test all rolling stock that carry truck drivers and train crew

to ensure that they are smoke-proof.

Abandon a policy of driving burning trains out of the tunnel and devise procedures to deal with a fire in the tunnel, protecting those on board a burning train, and minimizing risk to following trains.

The French Judicial Inquiry also is expected to release a study on the cause of the fire.