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

 

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - York

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - Y...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project