Four Eurostar trains stuck in Channel tunnel

2,000 passengers are stranded by cold-weather breakdown

Eurostar is the high-speed train that departs daily from Brussels to Lille, Ebbsfleet and London. From Brussels Eurostar runs at 300 km / h to the Channel Tunnel. The “crossing” takes only 21 minutes.

More than 2,000 people have been evacuated from four Eurostar trains that were trapped in the Channel tunnel after breaking down due to the cold weather.

The trains are believed to have failed as they left the cold air in northern France and entered the warmer air inside the tunnel.

The four trains had been moved from the tunnel and passengers were being transferred to England, said a Eurostar spokesman.

Some passengers were evacuated to shuttle trains that carry vehicles but others were stuck overnight. Many complained about the conditions on the stranded trains.

Lee Godfrey, who was travelling back from Disneyland Paris with his family, said they were left overnight without light, air conditioning, food or water.

Passengers opened emergency doors by themselves and set off down the tunnels to find refuge on another train, he said.

“We were without power. We ran out of water, we ran out of food and there was very very poor communication from the staff,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“We lost air conditioning when we lost the power. We had to open the emergency doors ourselves. The evacuation procedure we followed was one that we set down ourselves.

“We have had children asleep on the floor, they have been sick. It has been a complete nightmare.

“It was very scary for the children and elderly people. We had a lady in a wheelchair and a lady who was seven months pregnant and we had asthma attacks, people were fainting on the train. It was just pandemonium. People were very, very panicky.”

Godfrey said their train left Disneyland Paris at about 6.30pm GMT but 14 hours later had only just reached Folkestone, having first been taken back to Calais this morning where passengers were given food and drinks.

Another passenger, Philippe Serna from Lincolnshire, said his train left Paris at 4.30pm GMT and was stuck in the tunnel for about four hours.

“Then they announced there would be another train coming to meet us. We got out and walked down the tunnel only a short distance, and Kent fire brigade were there, and they put us on a shuttle which took us to Folkestone where we got back on another Eurostar which brought us here.

“The journey was very long but it was fine to be honest – just boring, frustrating and a bit stuffy.”

Eurostar spokesman Bram Smets said “very limited services” were expected to resume today and tomorrow but passengers were advised not to travel this weekend if their journey was not essential.

Another Eurostar spokesman said: “We have done all we have can to get people to their destination as quickly as possible. Obviously we understand people’s frustration.”

The tunnel closure exacerbated the travel problems caused by the cold weather in Kent. Kent police issued an urgent warning for drivers to stay away from the Folkestone and Dover areas of the M20.

The police have brought in Operation Stack, which allows lorries to park along sections of the M20, to ease congestion near the Eurostar terminal.

There have been tailbacks on the A20 into Dover after ferries were stopped for several hours due to severe weather in France.

A Dover spokesman said all ferry services to Dunkirk, Boulogne and Calais were running normally, and it was able to receive ferries and traffic.

He said: “The port is still full and traffic continues to queue on the A20 into Dover. Customers intending to sail to Calais are advised not to set out for the port without checking with their operator first.”

Police urged people to stay away from traffic-clogged routes around Dover and Folkestone.

Chief Superintendent Matthew Nix, from Kent Police, said: “We would appeal to everyone to consider whether their journey is really necessary. Because of the problems with the Channel Tunnel and the Port of Calais, it will take a considerable time to clear the backlog.”

More snow is expected across the UK in the next 24 hours.

Helen Rossington, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, said north-east England and Yorkshire could see 10-15cm of snow on high ground, while southern and eastern England were likely to get 2-5cm.


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