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C 187 E/80 (2001/C 187 E/086


Official Journal of the European Communities WRITTEN QUESTION E-3902/00 by Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL) to the Commission (13 December 2000) Subject: Improved fire prevention and fire control in road and rail tunnels



1. Is the Commission aware that the Dutch Institute for Fire and Disaster Control is of the opinion that firemen cannot put out fires in tunnels because the smoke prevents them from seeing anything, the heat is too great and the risk of explosion means it is irresponsible to enter tunnels (report in Rotterdams Dagblad of 20 November 2000)? 2. To what extent does the Commission think that the partially underground routes, such as those currently being built for the Cologne-Frankfurt high-speed train line through the Taunus and the Westerwald in Germany and those designed for the Amsterdam-Brussels high-speed line under the pastureland east of the Dutch city of Leiden, are suitable for use by high- speed trains? 3. If a train is derailed at high speed or catches fire in a tunnel, what is the increased risk to human life?

4. Does the Commission feel it is acceptable that the transport of dangerous goods, which used to be systematically referred to routes without tunnels, is increasingly taking place via road and rail tunnels? Is it responsible, in terms of safety, to remove the transport of dangerous goods from roads and waterways and for it to use rail tunnels in future? 5. Do all the tunnels which have been newly completed, or which are under construction or at the design stage, satisfy the quality requirements of the Channel tunnel between France and England where, in addition to two separate transport tunnels, there is a third tunnel to enable passengers on trains to escape if there is a fire in one of the other tunnels? 6. What is the Commission intending to do to increase safety, for example by making a very broad tunnel diameter the norm, having sprinkler systems built in to produce water curtains, making escape tunnels in parallel with existing and new tunnels compulsory, restricting the length of tunnels as far as possible or putting a brake on the building of tunnels in general?

Answer given by Mrs de Palacio on behalf of the Commission (1 March 2001) It is quite true that tunnels involve a considerably greater risk as compared with surface routes in the case of conflagrations. The period within which the rescue services must be in a position to act at the site of a fire in order to be effective is very short: roughly ten minutes. However, the Commission does not at the moment have in its possession any of the precise information on risk proliferation requested by the Honourable Member. The data currently in its possession show that, as things now stand, the fatality rate lies between zero and twenty per thousand million kilometres travelled, regardless of accident type. The Commission feels that safety factors negate any failure to build tunnels or cut-and-cover routes if these structures incorporate the most recent equipment and meet the most advanced building requirements. Moreover, following the accidents occurring in 1999 and 2000, the Commission has been drawing up a precise inventory of the laws and standards applying to rail and road tunnels in the Member States, together with standardisation activities within the relevant international bodies.



Official Journal of the European Communities

C 187 E/81

That inventory will enable an assessment to be made of the advantages deriving from the adoption of harmonised rules at European level for both rail and road tunnels.

The Commission will also keep a very watchful eye on the safety aspects of infrastructure building, including that of tunnel sections, and which receive Community financial support, more particularly in view of the budget for the trans-European networks.

The Commission has supported the work carried out by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in order to devise a methodology enabling the hazards involved in the various routes and alternatives modes where dangerous goods are carried to be compared. That methodology could show that, in many cases, journeys through tunnels are no more hazardous than on other possible routes.

(2001/C 187 E/087)

WRITTEN QUESTION E-3906/00 by Camilo Nogueira Román (Verts/ALE) to the Commission (13 December 2000)

Subject: Measures to be taken by the EU following the discovery of cattle affected by ‘mad cow disease’ in Galicia, Germany and the Azores

People in Galicia, as in the rest of Europe, are at present deeply concerned about the appearance in Galicia of the same problem as in Germany and the Azores, the discovery of a cow suffering from bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Concern is all the greater among farmers who, together with the authorities, must find a rapid solution to this serious problem. Whilst they are calling for measures to be taken with regard to health, consumption and production, they should not suffer the consequences, not least because this disease can be transmitted to human beings and is due to the lack of foresight of the authorities of the Member States and the European Union following the outbreak of the epidemic in the United Kingdom and its subsequent spread to France.

Since this is a European problem requiring generalised solutions which is affecting Galicia in particular, where the first case of this disease in Spain was detected, can the Commission say: why the Union institutions did not take steps years ago to eradicate BSE, in particular a ban on the use of animal meal in cattle feed, a large proportion of which is produced by multinational companies, with a total annual production of 3 million tonnes, which seems to be the cause of the disease; what measures the EU will take in Galicia, in conjunction with the Spanish State and the Galician authorities, to ensure the swift eradication of this disease; how it intends to provide financial compensation for the Galician farmers affected by the measures implemented, since their cattle must be slaughtered? Will they, in this case, receive the compensation needed to cover the full value of the cattle? Will farmers receive the financial aid needed to compensate for the heavy losses suffered as a result of the fall in consumption caused by people’s alarm and distrust?