Easter weekend travel: Eurostar and Eurotunnel disruption leaves thousands on wrong side of Channel on Good Friday
Knock-on from yesterday's problems add to cross-Channel demand on other services while major rail routes also face major disruption across UK
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Friday 18 April 2014
Thousands of travellers who had been hoping to make an early getaway for the Easter break woke up this morning on the wrong side of the Channel following severe disruption to Eurostar and Eurotunnel services.
For much of Thursday, Eurostar passenger services from London St Pancras to Paris, Brussels and Disneyland Paris were disrupted by a fatality near the French city of Lille, which added two hours to many journeys. Then a car-carrying Eurotunnel Shuttle failed in the Channel Tunnel. With all the other trains having to use a single bore of the tunnel, operations slowed to a crawl. Some passengers arrived here in the early hours of this morning after a seven-hour journey from Brussels – triple the normal journey time.
Late in the day, Eurostar cancelled 14 trains, affecting up to 10,000 passengers.
Jeremy Bestwick from Loughborough said: “There was no information coming through for passengers waiting. The queues were building and the station was absolutely jam-packed. People were assuming they were going to be late, but that they were going to travel. Then around 10.30pm they were told ‘no more trains tonight’. Most people stayed fairly cheerful but a few weren’t very happy – more for the lack of communication than anything else.”
Passengers were given a letter advising them to re-book for a different date within two months or claim a refund. Those stranded in London were told they could find a hotel, and claim the cost from Eurostar, but they would not be covered if they switched to a flight.
Eurostar said it hoped to run all its trains on time today to Paris, Brussels and Disneyland. But loads were already expected to be very high, with 15 per cent more passengers booked than last Good Friday. As a result there are very few seats available for today.
Eurostar said it hoped to run all its trains on time today to Paris, Brussels and Disneyland Gemma Ware tweeted: “Chaos starting early this morning @Eurostar. Hundreds arriving already with tickets for yesterday and no information about what's happening.”
Passengers were segregated into people with confirmed bookings for Good Friday, who were ushered through to the departure area, and those who failed to travel yesterday – who were told to queue for possible space.
Eurotunnel shuttles from Folkestone to Calais were running last night with five-hour delays on the English side of the Channel, but overnight waits eased to less than an hour. No new bookings are being accepted for travel on Good Friday.
Meanwhile the UK’s airports are busy, with easyJet predicting it will carry more passengers than any other day in its history.
Fares are extremely high, with last-minute tickets to Spain and Portugal going for £500 or more.
On the ferries, the problems in the Channel Tunnel have added to demand between Dover and Calais, which was already looking extremely busy. Sailings back to Britain on Easter Monday are also heavily booked. Loads on Eurostar are already expected to be very high, with 15 per cent more passengers booked than last Good Friday
In Britain, all the key long-distance rail lines to and from London are disrupted over the weekend. Sheffield, Derby and Nottingham are cut off from London St Pancras on Saturday and Sunday. Scotland is disconnected from England on the West Coast Main Line by work between Carlisle and Carstairs. Further south, the West Coast Main Line is closed on Saturday and Sunday at Warrington, with trains diverted via Manchester. Services on the Great Western route from London Paddington are reduced, with the number of Heathrow Express trains halved.
The East Coast Main Line to London Kings Cross from Yorkshire, north-east England and eastern Scotland has a severely reduced service.
London Bridge station, serving Kent, Surrey and Sussex – including Gatwick airport – is closed for a project called the “Bermondsey Dive Under”. The busiest station in Hampshire, Southampton Central, is closed all weekend.
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