Eurostar to restart some services, but backlogs remain

Thousands of travellers between Britain, France and Belgium left stranded by the Eurostar rail shutdown will be on the move again Tuesday, but it could take several days to clear the massive backlog.

Eurostar announced it would run a "restricted" service Tuesday after a three-day shutdown hit 75,000 people - but only passengers originally due to travel Saturday or Sunday will be eligible.

The remainder of the backlog will be cleared over the next few days. But with the Christmas holiday looming Friday, the clock is ticking for travellers wanting to head home or visit friends and family abroad.

Eurostar, the rail link which connects Britain and mainland Europe, said after tests on trains its service would be back on track - though only operating to two-thirds capacity and carrying 26,000 people.

Their problems were linked to heavy snow which fell at the weekend and which got past screens into train engines, causing electrical faults.

The situation was so bad that French President Nicolas Sarkozy summoned the company's chairman to his offices and ordered him to get the trains operating again by Tuesday.

"It has been a test for our trains that they haven't passed. We need to look at how to modify them for the future," Richard Brown, Eurostar chief executive, told Britain's Sky News television.

He added that a fully normal Eurostar service would probably not be restored until after Christmas.

The travel chaos began when five trains broke down on Friday night amid freezing temperatures and snow in northern France, trapping two thousand passengers overnight in the 50-kilometre (31-mile) tunnel under the English Channel.

Many passengers have voiced outrage at their treatment.

"I come each day intending to be strong, but now, with the fatigue and the lack of information...," 27-year-old British traveller Sze-Wei Lu said as she fought back tears at the Gare du Nord station in Paris.

She was just one of the many thousands waiting to find out if they could get home for Christmas or begin their Christmas holiday trip abroad.

French and British government ministers expressed outrage Monday over the breakdown and ordered a probe, with British transport minister Sadiq Khan saying he was "angry" that passengers had still not been told what was going on.

Sarkozy summoned Guillaume Pepy, the chairman of Eurostar. The company is jointly owned by the French and Belgian state railway and a private British firm.

"The president asked that a resumption of traffic be effective by tomorrow, December 22," said a statement issued by Sarkozy's office after their meeting.

Eurostar has launched its own review by independent experts into the breakdown of the high-speed trains.

The shuttle service which carries cars and trucks on trains under the Channel was functioning normally Monday, its operator Eurotunnel said, but was taking no more bookings for the moment because it was "saturated".

Eurostar meanwhile said it would compensate the thousands of passengers who had been stuck overnight in the tunnel at the weekend.

They will get double the price they paid for their tickets as well as up to 170 euros (243 dollars) and would have any hotel or taxi expenses reimbursed, it said.

Others who have not been able to travel can exchange their tickets for a later date or have them reimbursed and will have any expenses incurred reimbursed.

Eurostar has suspended any further ticket sales until after Christmas.

Meteorologists warned of more snow and ice overnight in the Calais region of France where the Channel tunnel begins.

The winter cold snap that shut down the Eurostar trains has also caused dozens of deaths and major transport disruption across Europe.

bur-kah/boc

 

Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
news
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
A photograph taken by David Redferm of Sonny Rollins
people
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Extras
indybest
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker