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50,000 travellers stranded over breakdown of Britain-France train link

By Babs Odukoya   |   21 December 2009   |   8:46 pm  

But the company managing the train services is running special trains through the tunnels in a bid to pinpoint the problem, its press officer, Anelle Mouhaddib, said yesterday. She declined to say whether any trains had successfully made it through the tunnel, but a series of trains dispatched from London and Paris on Saturday evening were either canceled or broke down.

Apart from the 2,000 people trapped in the tunnel on Friday night, a further 31,000 had their trips cancelled on Saturday, and 26,000 more were expected to be affected as at yesterday, Mouhaddib said.

Owing to the hardships travellers have been subjected to, AP reported that Eurostar’s executives have offered apologies, refunds, free travel and more. Officials said that the quick transition from the icy cold of France, which is suffering some of its worst winter weather in years, to the relative warmth of the tunnel could have interfered with the trains’ electrical systems. But the company’s chief operating officer, Nicolas Petrovic, said the exact cause remains unclear.

“It’s all a bit of a mystery and the company, and indeed a lot of people, appear baffled by it,” said Nigel Harris, the managing editor of Rail magazine.

“What is really puzzling about this is the fact that it is happening now, even though the trains have been exposed to cold weather over the last few years,” he said.

Comparable trains in France have “been going even longer than Eurostar without experiencing any of these cold-weather problems, he said.

The company said it not was making promises to passengers trying to make it to their destinations before Christmas, but pledged that service will be resumed “as soon as possible,” Mouhaddib said.



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