Policy paper

Investigation of Railway Accidents and Incidents in the Channel Tunnel system

Published 2 February 2021

1. Purpose of Memorandum

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) and the Bureau d’Enquêtes sur les Accidents de Transport Terrestre (BEA-TT) are the permanent investigating bodies for railway accidents and incidents in accordance with national legislation, in the UK and France respectively.

The purpose of this Memorandum of co-operation is to organise co-operation between these two bodies in case of accidents or incidents in the Channel Tunnel System. The term ‘Channel Tunnel System’ includes the actual Channel Tunnel but also the remainder of the concessions (including terminals and railway maintenance areas)

1.1 Status of the memorandum

This memorandum of co-operation sets out the operational arrangements for co-operation between the two bodies; this co-operation is allowed for in the regulations of both states.

It is agreed that the status of this memorandum is that of an operational guidance document for the assistance of both parties and that it is not a legally binding contract or otherwise legally binding.

1.2 Application of this memorandum

Both BEA-TT and RAIB agree that this memorandum will apply from the date of its signature; each party may cancel it after a notification to the other party.

2.1 National framework: France

BEA-TT is the permanent investigating body for railway accidents and incidents in France, that is required to be established by all EU member states in accordance with the EU Railway Safety Directive 2016/798.

The legal text governing BEA-TT investigations is:

  • Transport Code, articles L1621-1 to_L1622-2, and R1621-1 to_R1621-26

This text applies throughout France, and the French part of the Channel Tunnel.

The institution responsible for retaining evidence is the judiciary, once a judicial inquiry is opened. When BEA-TT has opened an investigation, it has broad powers of access to this evidence and to investigate all parties concerned.

For the accidents or incidents on the Channel Tunnel system:

  • The regulation recognises the need, and foresees, co-operation between the BEA-TT and the body responsible for the investigation of accidents in the UK (article R.1621-23)
  • The regulation authorises the director of BEA-TT to invite the technical inspectors of the body responsible for the investigation of accidents in the UK to take part in investigations opened by BEA-TT.

Although it is part of the Ministry in Charge of Transport, BEA-TT is entirely independent in the conduct of investigations.

2.2 National framework: The UK

The Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 (the 2003 Act) set up the Railway Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) to investigate railway accidents and incidents.

The 2003 Act and the Railways (Accident Investigation and Reporting) Regulations 2005 (as amended by The Merchant Shipping (Accident Reporting and Investigation) and the Railways (Accident Investigation and Reporting) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018) provide the legal framework for the RAIB’s work. The Regulations require railway industry bodies to notify RAIB of accidents or incidents, to preserve evidence and to co-operate with the RAIB in its investigations. In addition, there are certain legal requirements on statutory authorities in areas such as the preservation of evidence.

The Regulations recognise the need for and require co-operation between RAIB and the investigatory body in France (Regulation 5(9)).

Although for administrative purposes it is part of the UK Department for Transport, RAIB is functionally independent.

3. Exchange of information on becoming aware of an accident or incident

The directors of BEA-TT and RAIB agree that when one of the investigating bodies is notified of an accident or incident it will inform the other. In the case of an event that is listed in Annex 1A this information will be passed immediately and by the fastest possible means. In the case of an event that is listed in Annex 1B this information shall be passed as soon as is practicable.

Contact details for BEA-TT and RAIB are set out in Annex 2.

4. Opening of investigations

When either the director of BEA-TT or RAIB plans to open an investigation into an accident or incident in the Channel Tunnel, it will contact the other to inform it of its position and consider which of the investigation strategies outlined in clause 5.1 and clause 5.2 apply.

When deciding if to open an investigation into an incident that has occurred on its own national territory within the Channel Tunnel concession each investigating body will consider the views of the other.

5. Co-ordination of BEA-TT and RAIB activities during an investigation

For accident or incident investigations in the Channel Tunnel, the investigating bodies will permit the investigating body of the other state to participate in an investigation, will share the results of the investigation, and may agree to carry out the investigation of the accident or incident in co-operation with the investigating body of the other state.

The directors of BEA-TT and RAIB have agreed that an investigation can be opened by one body (clause 5.1) or by both bodies simultaneously (clause 5.2).

5.1 Investigation opened by one body

Such an investigation can only be opened by the investigating body in whose territory the accident has occurred (the ‘lead body’).

The ‘lead body’ will involve the other investigating body (‘partner body’) in its investigation.

The partner body nominates a correspondent to serve as the contact between the two bodies.

In all such cases the partner body will be informed of progress and will be consulted on matters of importance. If it wishes, it may attend the meetings held by the lead body. It will try as far as reasonably practicable to respond to requests from the lead body. It acts as a relay in its country for all needs for action, information or documentation, within the limit of its powers given that it has opened no investigation of its own.

5.2 Co-operative investigations opened by both bodies

When both investigating bodies’ directors open an investigation into the same accident or incident, they cooperate with a view to conducting a joint investigation and producing a joint report.

As soon as the two bodies decide to launch an investigation, they consult to decide how to ensure the cohesion of their investigation activities. They will agree methods of investigation, and determine the principles of division of effort and work organisation. The two investigating bodies also examine the remit and scope of the investigation. The body leading the investigation will then draft a plan, which it refers to the other investigating body for its opinion.

During the investigation, within the limits of the applicable national regulations, they will regularly exchange information gained. They will grant the fullest possible access to the documents and recordings in their possession. They will co-ordinate their work programmes and co-operate in writing the published documents (including communications with the parties concerned and drafting of the investigation report).

This memorandum establishes the principle that one or other of the investigating bodies will always lead the management of a joint investigation and that this decision will be taken quickly to facilitate an effective investigation.

The choice of body to lead the investigation depends on where the accident happened. BEA-TT will lead the investigation if the accident occurred in the French part of the Channel Tunnel; RAIB if it occurred in the British part of the Channel Tunnel. If this in unclear (for example. in the instance of a fire on a moving train that crosses the international frontier), the two investigating bodies will consult to agree which body will lead the investigation and any special management arrangements to apply.

5.3 Expenses incurred in investigations

These are of two types:

  • each body’s own expenses
  • spending on external services.

For all types of investigation each body will meet its own expenses, which are mainly the costs of the investigators and their travelling expenses.

If an investigation is opened by only one body (clause 5.1), the cost of external services will be met by the body requesting the service (in principle, this is the body implementing the investigation).

In the case of a co-operative investigation (clause 5.2), the cost-sharing formula for external services is decided jointly at the start of the investigation (apart from special situations, the split is normally 50:50). This formula may be revised during the investigation, with the agreement of both parties.

6. Liaison with national authorities and others involved

The two investigating bodies will strive for effective working relations with the national police forces, the judicial authorities and other national authorities during an investigation into an accident. Each body will endeavour to facilitate access to national officials for investigators from the other nation’s investigating body if this is necessary to the conduct of an investigation within the limits of the applicable national regulations.

Likewise, the two investigating bodies will try to facilitate relations with other bodies (for example. the railway companies) for the investigating body in the other country.

7. Investigators’ power and confidentiality

The investigators of each of the bodies act in their countries by the powers granted to them at national level, in accordance with the national regulations, especially concerning confidentiality.

Any activity by an investigating body outside its national territory will take place with the agreement of, and in co-operation with, the other. This memorandum grants no powers to investigators outside their national territories unless they have been formally appointed under the relevant national regulations.

8. Management of evidence and information to be released

Both investigating bodies will cooperate to ensure that both parties are content with any proposals to share information and evidence with external bodies. This plan will consider the requirements of the Directive (EU) 2016/798 in France, national laws, and the needs of both parties.

For investigations conducted under clause 5.1, the body conducting the investigation will pass to the partner body any information it proposes to release. The partner may comment if it feels necessary.

For co-operative investigations as per clause 5.2, the information (for example, press releases) proposed by either body will be referred to the other for approval before use or distribution. In case of difficulty, the two bodies will together seek joint wording.

In addition, the timing and method of any planned release will be discussed by both bodies, and agreed so far as is reasonably practicable.

9. Investigation reports and recommendations

The following arrangements apply to:

  • final reports
  • interim reports
  • urgent recommendations or safety advice.

During the investigation, it may prove vital for either or both investigating bodies to make one or more recommendations or issue advice, without awaiting an interim or final report. Such recommendation(s) are called urgent recommendations.

Reports on investigations carried out as per clause 5.1 are drawn up under the direction of the investigating body responsible. Before any distribution, reports are passed to the partner body, which may comment. Both bodies will work to avoid any unnecessary delay arising as a consequence of this consultation.

Joint reports on co-operative investigations as per clause 5.2 are drawn up jointly and agreed by both bodies. If a difference emerges between the two investigating bodies, it will be submitted to the Director of BEA-TT and the Chief Inspector of RAIB, who will seek a common position. If the difference cannot be resolved:

  • the main text is drawn up by the lead body with, as an annex, a statement of the viewpoint of the partner body
  • the existence of the disagreement is mentioned in the summary and conclusions.

When drawing up recommendations RAIB and BEA-TT are committed to the principle that investigators will consult with involved parties and the safety authority, as appropriate, in order to verify that any proposals are reasonable and likely to prove effective.

The body of a joint report will be published in both French and English. The partner body is responsible for translation. Bulky technical annexes are not automatically translated, unless this is essential for an understanding of the conclusions. The structure and presentation of the report will comply with the requirements of the Directive, unless deviations are agreed by the investigating bodies.

The two bodies jointly sign the submission of their joint report.

Information on follow-up of the recommendations received by either body is passed to the partner body for information.

The investigating bodies will likewise seek agreement on the drafting of urgent recommendations which they consider need publishing during an investigation. If the need for such a recommendation is not recognised, each investigating body will have an opportunity to publish the recommendation to the appropriate bodies in its own territory.

10. Annual reports

In accordance with Directive (EU) 2016/798 (in France) and national law in both countries, each of the two bodies refers to any investigations conducted concerning the fixed link in its own annual report having referred the part of it relating to the fixed link to the other investigating body for comment or input.

11. Operational review

The Director of BEA-TT and the Chief Inspector of RAIB undertake an occasional review as required of their work for the Channel Tunnel and the effectiveness of this memorandum in the light of practical experience. It may take the form of a meeting or telephone call, depending on the situation.

12. Annex 1 - Notifiable incidents

12.1 Annex 1A

Types of accident or incident in the Channel Tunnel which will be reported to the other national investigating body immediately and by the fastest available means:

  1. An accident resulting in death or serious injury to a person
  2. A derailment of rolling stock which causes damage to or blocks a running line
  3. A collision that occurs on any line other than a siding, between rolling stock and
  • other rolling stock
  • an object capable of causing damage to or derailment of the rolling stock
  • a buffer stop.
  1. An accident that causes extensive damage to rolling stock, the infrastructure or environment
  2. A collision on a level crossing involving a vehicle or pedestrian and rolling stock, whether or not a person suffers death or injury
  3. An accident involving the release or combustion of dangerous goods that necessitates the evacuation of a tunnel or part of the terminal
  4. Fire necessitating evacuation of passengers from one part of a train to another part of the same train or intervention of the fire brigade
  5. An accident or incident leading to the evacuation of passengers from a train
  6. Unauthorised passing of a closed marker or signal
  7. Runaway train on a line
  8. An accident or incident which, under slightly different conditions might have led to serious injuries or extensive damage to rolling stock, the infrastructure or the environment

12.2 Annex 1B

Types of accident or incident in the Channel Tunnel which will be reported to the other national investigating body at the earliest practicable opportunity, on the following working day

  1. A fire, arcing or fusing which adversely affects the functioning of signalling, catenary or rolling stock control equipment
  2. A fire that results in the suspension of railway services or closure of a part of railway property affecting the track, for a period of more than 1 hour
  3. Any unintended division of a train, or breakage of coupling
  4. The failure of rolling stock on the track caused by
  • the failure or seizing of an axle
  • the failure of a wheel or tyre, including a tyre loose on its wheel
  • the failure of brakes on a train
  • a fire or severe electrical arcing or fusing on rolling stock, whether or not extinguished by a fire-fighting service
  1. A broken rail, major failure of track equipment (weld, fastenings, etc.) or track deformation
  2. Any significant safety related breakdown or any serious destruction or collapse of equipment, installations or structures
  3. Any failure in the signalling system, or any other safety system, which endangers or potentially endangers the safe operation of the railway
  4. Submersion of track that necessitates its closure
  5. Unscheduled stopping of a train in a tunnel for more than 30 minutes.
  6. Damage to track caused by rolling stock or a dragging object
  7. Spillage of fuel from a road vehicle being carried on a shuttle train
  8. A breach of the requirements for the transport of dangerous goods
  9. Any incident during which installations, equipment or rolling stock come into unintended contact with live overhead power lines with a voltage in excess of 200 volts

13. Annex 2 - RAIB and BEA-TT contacts

13.1 Contact details for major accidents and incidents (as listed in Annex 1A)

RAIB Telephone (all hours) 00 44 1332 253333

BEA-TT Telephone office hours 00 33 1 40 81 38 50 or 00 33 1 40 81 21 83 24 hours 00 33 6 17 15 51 50

Once the first contact is established further information can be transmitted by e-mail to the home/office of the manager concerned. The e-mail addresses that should be used for this purpose are as follows:

RAIB notify@raib.gov.uk

BEA-TT bea-tt@developpement-durable.gouv.fr

13.2 Contact details for less serious accidents and incidents (as listed in Annex 1B)

RAIB Telephone (general enquiries during office hours): 00 44 1 332 253338

E-mail notify@raib.gov.uk

BEA-TT Telephone (general enquiries during office hours): 00 33 1 40 81 21 83

E-mail bea-tt@developpement-durable.gouv.fr