Eurostar services resume after major disruption

4 months ago 123

Passengers at the entrance to Eurostar in St Pancras International stationImage source, PA Media

By Harrison Jones & Doug Faulkner

BBC News

Eurostar services to London, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam are running again on Sunday following a day of major disruption.

New Year plans for thousands were in ruins after flooding in tunnels under the River Thames led to the cancellation of all Eurostar services between London and Paris on Saturday.

Services have resumed as normal, although Eurostar has warned of delays.

There is also disruption on Thameslink services due to staff shortages.

Southeastern, which cancelled its high-speed services to Ebbsfleet on Saturday because it uses the same line as the Eurostar, initially ran a reduced service on Sunday but by 10:30 GMT said it had reinstated its full service.

And the Met Office has warned there could be disruption to domestic journeys this weekend, as wind and rain sweep across the UK. A yellow weather warning for wind is in place from 10:00 GMT to midnight for the south coast of England, south-west England and south Wales.

Gusts of 50-55mph (80.5-88.5km/h) are likely across wide areas, with potential for gusts of 65-75mph on the southern coast of England and in South Wales, the Met Office said.

In Scotland ScotRail has said it is expecting disruption, including speed restrictions, due to adverse weather.

Services on the Eurotunnel - which shuttles vehicles under the Channel - are running smoothly.

On Sunday morning the scene at London St Pancras was less chaotic than the day before, with the first Eurostar train leaving London a few minutes late at 08:10 GMT. It arrived at Paris Gare du Nord at 11:18.

But with trains fully booked, there will be a backlog of tens of thousands of passengers who were not able to make their trip on Saturday.

Eurostar said: "Flooding in the Thames tunnels has been brought under control by Network Rail High Speed.

"There will be some speed restrictions in place this morning which may lead to delays and stations are expected to be very busy."

There is no availability left for trains on Sunday and no additional trains will be put on, Eurostar said.

It added customers should visit the Eurostar website for more information on compensation.Passengers whose train was cancelled can claim a refund or exchange their ticket and Eurostar will consider reimbursing the cost of overnight accommodation and food incurred as a direct result of a cancellation.

However, it will not cover other expenses such as the cost of alternative transport.

While Eurostar says there is no standby system it appears around 50 passengers, some with children, are waiting in case spaces become available. Some have expressed disappointment that additional services have not been provided.

HS1, which runs the track, said speed restrictions which had been in place during the morning were lifted at 11:00.

Richard Thorp, HS1's engineering director, earlier apologised to customers saying he knew disruption to travel plans was "devastating", but said things were looking "far more positive" on Sunday.

He told the BBC an unprecedented volume of water had overwhelmed the pumping systems causing the flooding.

On Saturday some passengers were in tears on both sides of The Channel as they became stranded or saw their plans fall through.

There was a more optimistic mood at St Pancras on Sunday with one woman, who was travelling to Paris to celebrate New Year's Eve, telling the BBC she was feeling "so much better" and felt "lucky to be here today".

Isobel Ram, 49, her partner and her daughter, managed to secure tickets home on Sunday in what she described as "a miracle" after the French family spent a night in a hotel following their train's cancellation.

"We were super happy but a bit embarrassed because there was a huge queue of people waiting behind us and we didn't want to show we got tickets, make it too obvious, in case other people didn't," she said.

Image caption,

Lionel Buchaillot is hoping to book a train home in time for his son's party

But Lionel Buchaillot said he was waiting to try to get a new reservation after his train was cancelled on Saturday evening.

"Hopefully we will be back to France tonight. I'm reasonably optimistic because they told us yesterday they were going to have two or three more trains," he said.

He added that his son had a party in the evening so would "kill us" if they did not make it back.

Image caption,

David and Brianne Vantile were hoping to get to Brussels

Brianne and David Vantile tried to fly to Brussels after their train was cancelled on Saturday but "that didn't work out either" after all the standby seats on the plane had been given away.

David said they were "very frustrated" but Brianne said they were "still laughing about it".

The couple said they had not been able to get a refund for their flight or Brussels hotel but were hopeful of catching a train on Sunday.

Jake Pitchers and his partner Charlotte Keers made an 18-hour journey to get home to east London to throw a New Year's Eve party for 20 of their friends.

They were due to catch the Eurostar from Brussels on Saturday evening after a short break in Antwerp.

Image source, Jake Pitchers

Image caption,

It took Jake Pitchers and Charlotte Keers 18 hours to get back to the UK after their Eurostar train was cancelled

Mr Pitchers said: "Throughout the day we saw that trains were being cancelled but there was some mixed messaging. They were saying that water levels were receding a bit in the tunnel and ours wasn't cancelled until later in the day.

"Around 15:00 we found out that all the remaining trains had been cancelled. We immediately tried to jump on Eurostar today but they had all been booked up and then it was just a case of trying to figure out how to get back to the UK because we're hosting a party tonight for New Year's Eve, which we had to make it back for."

After three trains through Belgium, a ferry from the Hook of Holland to Harwich, they made it back to the UK. They then took another two trains and a bus-replacement service to get home.

"But the party is still on - absolutely!" Mr Pitchers said.

Media caption,

This video shows the extent of the flooding inside the tunnel

It is the second time in 10 days there has been major disruption to Eurostar services, with a "last-minute strike" by French workers halting trains before Christmas.

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