Thousands of people, cars and lorries are stranded on both sides of the Channel tonight, as freezing weather brings chaos to much of northern Europe.
All Eurostar services have been suspended until tomorrow at the earliest after several trains broke down inside the Channel Tunnel. Some passengers spent up to 16 hours waiting to be rescued. They are angry, as are thousands more waiting helplessly for trains in Paris.
The fact that Eurostar is optimistic about getting its trains running again tomorrow was of little comfort to stranded passengers. Eurostar blames the cold weather sweeping in from Russia. Engineers say the sharp temperature difference between the freezing French countryside and the warm humid tunnel may have caused electrical malfunctions. Getting the packed trains out of the tunnel proved a further problem.
The tunnel is the longest undersea crossing in the world, typically moving around 40,000 people a day across the Channel.
“We’re terribly sorry,” said Eurostar Director of Communications Mary Walsh. “We realise people have had a really very frustrating time. And we’ve been doing all we can to try and reassure people, to try and make them as comfortable as possible but we realise it’s been extremely difficult.”
The tunnel has had its difficulties since it opened in 1994. Last year it was shut for two days following a fire on a freight train, while a blaze in 1996 halted all traffic for seven months.