Eurostar passengers hit by long snow delays

Snow and ice caused long delays to Eurostar trains linking Britain with France and northern Europe through the Channel Tunnel.

Eurostar passengers hit by long snow delays

Thousands of rail passengers queued for hours in the bitter cold in London on Monday as snow and ice caused long delays to Eurostar trains linking Britain with France and northern Europe through the Channel Tunnel.

The rail operator told all passengers booked to travel before Christmas to consider cancelling their journey unless it is essential for them to travel.

It also urged travellers to stay away from its London terminal, St Pancras, and its main station in Paris, Gare du Nord, as it struggled to cope with the backlog.

Passengers formed a slow-moving line that stretched for hundreds of metres around the block outside St Pancras.

With temperatures hovering around zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit), charity workers handed out cups of tea to passengers wrapped up in scarves, gloves and woolly hats.

Some said they had been waiting for five hours or more and expected to be queuing late into the night.

"The last train is going at 11 p.m. (2300 GMT), so we might get on that one, or we might not," one passenger told the BBC. "We have tried calling the ferries and the hovercraft and they are full. Airports are closed, so this was the only option left."

The unexpected cold snap has forced Eurostar to impose speed limits on its cross-Channel trains, adding up to two hours to journey times. That meant fewer trains were available to carry passengers.

"Please do not travel to the station as unfortunately we are not able to accept any more passengers for travel today," it said in a statement on its website. "A restricted service will operate for the rest of this week."

A Eurostar spokesman said that on Monday it had cancelled 13 out of 52 trains, each capable of carrying about 750 passengers.

"St Pancras is a very busy station today, however we continue to run a service, as we have over the last four days," he said. "It is super frustrating for customers who have been down there today, but we have been doing what we can to get them moving as quickly as possible.

"We plan to run a service tomorrow which will ... be at least equal or hopefully a few more services than we've had today."

Eurostar imposed speed limits on trains as a precautionary measure due to the dangers posed by ice and snow, doubling the journey time between London and Paris, the spokesman added.

A broken-down train and two failures of the mechanisms that switch trains between tracks in northern France over the weekend compounded the delays, the spokesman said.

The worst early winter weather for years has severely disrupted air travel, railways and roads across northern Europe.

Freezing conditions last year also severely disrupted Eurostar trains, trapping hundreds of passengers in the subsea tunnel just before Christmas.


Reuters

Last Mod: 21 Aralık 2010, 12:00
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