Channel Tunnel train delay and cancellation 'chaos'

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Media captionEurostar passenger Gavin Leisfield said there were no Eurostar staff at the station to help and police were guarding the check-in desk

Channel Tunnel rail passengers have faced train cancellations and major delays after a series of problems led to a backlog in services.

A Eurotunnel train broke down in one tunnel, as a technical issue closed the other. Both issues were later fixed.

But delays continued to hit passenger and freight services ahead of the busy Easter weekend. A fatality near Lille also delayed Eurostar trains.

The BBC's Paul Moss, at the Paris Eurostar, described scenes of "chaos".

Eurostar spokesman Leigh Calder said the firm was "incredibly sorry" for the disruption, especially as so many passengers were trying to get away for the Easter holiday.

He confirmed 14 out of 44 Eurostar trains due to run on Thursday - which can each hold 750 passengers - had been cancelled.

Eurostar operates from St Pancras, Ashford and Ebbsfleet in England, Paris and Lille in France, and Brussels in Belgium.

Eurotunnel, a separate company, runs a service called le Shuttle between Folkestone and Calais.

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Media captionEurostar spokesman Leigh Calder: "We are exceptionally sorry... but it is out of our control"

A Eurotunnel spokesman said both rail tunnels were now "fully open" and services were "getting back to normal".

But Mr Calder said track closures in France meant no Eurostar trains could leave London after 21:30 BST, causing a knock-on effect for Friday morning.

He said Thursday's passengers could re-book for a future date or try travelling on Friday - but he warned trains would be "very full".

Passengers not able to travel would get a "full refund", he said, while those stranded at stations without a place to stay would have "reasonable" hotel, travel and food expenses reimbursed.

Those with a ticket to travel on Friday have been advised to "check in as normal".

Mr Calder added: "Although the factors that have caused this are out of our control, we apologise to passengers who have been affected by this."

Catch up

Image copyright Gavin Leisfield
Image caption Large queues have formed at stations including St Pancras in London

Eurotunnel, whose le Shuttle service carries cars and freight, said one of its trains had broken down in one of the tunnels earlier.

A company spokesman said trains then had to be stopped in the other tunnel due to a "technical problem" with the overhead power lines. Both tunnels have one rail line.

The spokesman said: "We will be running a four-departure-per-hour service from both sides [Britain and France] so hopefully the waiting times will start to come down quite quickly.

"There will be extra departures through the night to make sure we catch up."

But he said this would take "some time" due to the number of people waiting.

He added Eurotunnel services had not been affected by the fatality near Lille.

'Complete chaos'

Meanwhile, many drivers also found their journeys delayed in what traffic information firm Inrix said was the busiest day of the year so far on the UK's roads.

Speaking from the Gare du Nord in Paris, the BBC's Paul Moss said "hundreds and hundreds" of people were "milling around and not being told what was going on".

"We received various contradictory messages," he said.

"It was left to a couple of besieged individuals to try and hold back the crowds and explain.

"First they said there were a couple of trains going then they said there were no trains at all."

He said "nobody is really getting clear information on what to do", and the Eurostar ticket office was closed at 18:00 despite the number of people waiting for trains.

He added that "scenes of complete chaos" developed, with "at least a dozen policemen trying to deal with this very angry crowd of passengers".

'Easter in London'

Passenger Gavin Leisfield, who arrived at St Pancras in London at about 17:30 BST for a Eurostar train, spoke to the BBC almost four hours later.

He said he had been handed a letter saying all trains had been cancelled for the evening, but other people were still queuing and were unaware of that decision.

"If they knew that services weren't happening and they told people then they could have made other arrangements," he said.

"But there's been no one on the ground."

He added: "We were actually going to go to Paris for the day and then get a connecting train to Berlin overnight but that's not going to happen. Oh well, Easter in London. It's not so bad."

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