Le Shuttle Summer Bookings Run 10% Ahead of 1996's Pace

LONDON -- Summer bookings on Le Shuttle, the train that transports vehicles and passengers through the Channel Tunnel, are running 10% ahead of last year's, according to Eurotunnel.

The company's latest traffic figures show that more than 149,600 cars were carried in March, while 152,900 were carried during the same period in 1996.

A Eurotunnel spokesman said the figures showed that public confidence in its service was strong.

"Our attitude surveys show that people are not bothered about safety in the tunnel," he said.

The figures were announced as Eurotunnel published the findings of an internal inquiry into a fire last November on a freight train.

The report revealed that there had been avoidable delays in getting 31 passengers to the surface in Calais, France.

A spokesman said the company believed the passengers could have gotten out in about 20 minutes, rather than 86 minutes, and explained that there had been a failure to implement existing procedures quickly enough.

However, he pointed out that the official target of evacuating travelers within 90 minutes had been met.

Eurotunnel also announced measures to improve safety, including new equipment to improve emergency information systems, reduce the effects of smoke and minimize fire damage.

Repairs to the tunnel are due for completion on May 15, and Le Shuttle will be able to run up to four shuttle trains an hour from that date.

In March, 500,900 passengers traveled on Eurostar, the high-speed passenger train, compared with 389,000 in the same month last year.

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