U.S. Water News Online
LONDON -- Passengers, operators, and even financial analysts are eagerly awaiting the reopening of the Eurotunnel, closed since a fire severely damaged the 31-mile underwater rail link between England and France in November.
Officials say it could take five months or more before all the repairs are complete, though limited passenger service is expected to resume in the next few weeks.
The fire, which started on a truck carried by a freight train, caused millions of dollars of damage to one of the tunnels. Eight people suffered smoke inhalation, but no one was seriously injured. The freight train was carrying 34 passengers and its crew.
Eurotunnel, an Anglo-French company, operates the "chunnel," which actually is two train tunnels divided by a service tunnel. Two services cater to the public: Eurostar, which offers passenger train service; and Le Shuttle, a train that ferries passenger cars through the tunnel.
Belgian Railways spokeswoman Leen Uyterhoeven said the fire will quash Eurostar's hopes of having 1 million passengers on the Brussels-London route in 1996.
Before the fire, Eurostar -- which takes passengers from Brussels to London via the underwater chunnel -- had taken 65,000 reservations for December, mostly for weekend shopping trips, according to Uyterhoeven.
Yet, so great is the chunnel's draw as a smooth, efficient, and comfortable means to cross the English Channel, not even the fire and the resulting chaos have dampened enthusiasm. So many people can recall slow, stomach-churning ferry voyages across the channel that, for many, the tunnel still seems a godsend.
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