FIREFIGHTERS and other rescue workers went deep under the River Thames to test procedures for a rescue in the soon to be opened Thames Tunnel of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

The incident simulated a running diesel fire under a service train with both walking wounded and unconscious casualties trapped a mile from the Essex end of the tunnel.

Tuesday's event was a multi-agency exercise also involving Kent Fire and Rescue Service, Essex Ambulance, the British Transport Police, the Rail Authority and Essex Police.

The tunnel is three kilometres long and forms a vital part of the new Channel Tunnel Rail link running from Euston instead of Waterloo, it is due to start operating this November.

It contains two tracks in two separate tunnels.

Crews had to get all of their equipment three storeys under-ground before loading them onto an empty Eurostar train in the unaffected tunnel which took them to the site of the incident.

Once at the right point in the tunnel all the equipment had to be unloaded onto a narrow platform which crews worked from to enter the tunnel which was affected by fire where they carried out a rescue wearing BA and tackled the fire under the train.

Divisional Officer Bob Whal, who was in charge of the exercise, said: "We have been working with the CTRL on this tunnel for the last 10 years to make sure that we have the proper safety procedures to cover any eventuality.

"This exercise allowed us familiarise all of the watches from the local stations, who would deal with an incident in the tunnel, with the procedures and what it is like to work underground.

"The exercise ran over two days and has been extremely useful in highlighting what elements of our plans work and which areas can be improved and helping us to create plans to cover this important new risk in our area.

"Most of the plans we have in place have stood up very well and these exercises have helped all of the crews understand exactly what they need to do if the worst should happen in the tunnel."