The announcement was made by ERA in its response to a request in December 2010 by the Channel Tunnel Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) for its technical opinion on the operation of trains in the Tunnel. In March 2010, IGC completed a review of the safety rules governing the operation of passenger trains. It accepted the request to abolish the need to split a train in the tunnel in an emergency and the principle of distributed-traction trains. However, when Eurostar announced in October an order with Siemens to supply 10 distributed-traction high-speed trains, the French government claimed this would jeopardise safety, despite the fact that Alstom, France, had also offered Eurostar its distributed-traction AGV (IRJ November p2 and p4).

ERA points out the European Union legislation, in particular the technical specifications for interoperability covering rail tunnel safety, prevail over national rules for the authorisation of vehicles running on Trans-European networks. ERA says that the existing requirements for vehicle authorisation in the Channel Tunnel are not clear, transparent or fully notified. It also wants the IGC's remaining unduplicated requirements to be brought into line with EU legislation. ERA says the IGC cannot mandate a particular design solution, and requirements can only relate to compatibility with the Channel Tunnel infrastructure.

DB, which plans to introduce Siemens distributed-traction ICE trains to London, welcomes the ERA report as a first step. "Due to the positive ERA report and our ongoing collaboration with the IGC, we are optimistic to obtain clearance for our ICE trains by early summer," says Mr Ulrich Homburg, DB management board member for passenger transport. "Subsequently we will expect to start full implementation later this year of our project to connect London to mainland Europe from 2013.