A train to nowhere: Eurostar passengers endure disaster-ridden journey to Paris

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The Independent Online

A Eurostar train that left London for Paris on Friday evening finally pulled into Gare du Nord yesterday morning after a night of railway mishaps.

At one point, its 643 passengers fumbled through the French countryside in pitch darkness. The train, which had left St Pancras at 8.05pm, eventually rolled into Paris 12 hours and three locomotives later.

It was met by officials offering free breakfasts, compensation, profuse apologies and an immediate investigation.

The journey, that was due to take two hours and 31 minutes, actually lasted nearly 10 hours longer and first hit problems at Lille.

An electrical fault had developed in a London-bound Eurostar, but instead of replacing it, SNCF managers decided to stop the Paris-bound train and order the north and southbound passengers to swap trains.

Having been on a good train, the Paris-bound folk found themselves in a clearly ailing one. The speed fell and the carriage lights dipped on several occasions before the train finally blacked out and halted in the countryside near Ablaincourt at 1am.

Even though, the train was then 80 miles from Paris, it took the SNCF another eight hours to rescue the passengers and bring them to the French capital.

The rescue train sent to tow the ailing Eurostar was then found to have a defective coupling. This meant that the two trains had to travel south at 40 mph instead of the normal 186mph. The passengers finally arrived at the Gare du Nord at 9.13am.