Eurostar on Monday said it would pay out some 10 million pounds (16 million dollars, 11 million euros) in compensation to passengers hit by a disastrous breakdown last month blamed on severe weather.

Over 2,000 people were trapped for hours overnight in the Channel Tunnel between France and Britain on December 19, while tens of thousands more had to re-arrange travel as the service remained out of action for a couple of days.

The breakdown and disruption were a PR disaster for Eurostar, both because people trapped in the tunnel blasted the company's response to the crisis, and because it affected traffic in the hugely busy pre-Christmas period.

"There were over a hundred thousand people actually affected by the disruptions over the three days, so as a result the compensation we expect to pay is around 10 million pounds," said a Eurostar spokesman.

The company blamed the wrong kind of snow for causing problems with its trains' electrics. An independent report into the breakdowns is due to be completed by the end of this month.

In a letter apologising to passengers, Eurostar boss Richard Brown said: "I am acutely aware that we have to win back the trust of our customers following the disruption to our services before Christmas.

"We failed to deliver the standard of service you expect and I apologise unreservedly for the problems that occurred.

"Going forward, we need to demonstrate to you that we are doing everything possible to provide the most robust, reliable service during periods of severe weather. We are also very aware of the need for better information."

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