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Low-Riding Autos Lose Mufflers In Channel Tunnel

January 17, 1995

LONDON (AP) _ The Channel Tunnel has run into a new hurdle, or at least some of the cars trying to use it have.

About 100 cars riding a little too close to the ground have been damaged driving onto the tunnel’s ``Le Shuttle″ trains, where they scraped metal equipment between the train cars, according to a spokeswoman for the operating company Eurotunnel.

This is just a fraction of the 90,000 cars that the tunnel has carried between Folkestone, England, and Calais, France, since opening last year, Eurotunnel spokeswoman Jane Bowles said Tuesday. Most of the damage has been minor.

``There are 25 significant problems, exhausts ripped out or even bigger problems than that,″ she said.

During testing, Eurotunnel used cars carrying five adults and a huge load of beer, which is what typical passengers can expect to bring back from France, where alcohol taxes are much lower than in England.

But Eurotunnel had apparently not counted on some cars having a ground clearance of less than 4 inches, the level at which they can have problems. Some of the low-riding cars include Ferraris and Lotuses, Eurotunnel said.

The tunnel trains have fire walls between each car, and retractable barriers to keep cars from rolling into the fire walls while the trains are moving. The barriers are lowered as the train is being loaded, with cars entering at the rear and driving forward until all the shuttle cars are full.

Unfortunately for some low-riding cars, the equipment that houses the fire wall barriers is about 3.6 inches tall and it is not retractable.

As a short-term solution, Eurotunnel has devised a small hurdle for cars to drive over before they board the shuttle trains. Any car that looks to be too low is put in the very last train car, and driven in reverse as it exits, thus avoiding the fire walls.

The troubles have not caused significant delays for other tunnel passengers, the company says, because rescue crews are on hand to quickly remove any stalled cars from the trains.

Passengers whose cars were damaged should be able to get repairs paid for by Eurotunnel’s insurers, Bowles said.

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