Eurostar passengers vent fury at "third world" rail service
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Eurostar train services remain severely disrupted two days after adverse weather conditions caused several trains to break down in the tunnel between France and Britain, leaving thousands of incensed passengers trapped under the English Channel for up to 16 hours. Amateur footage of the passengers' ordeal reveals the beleaguered company's poor handling of the situation and the extent of public anger. Read more and watch the videos...
Eurostar train services remain severely disrupted two days after adverse weather conditions caused several trains to break down in the tunnel between France and Britain, leaving thousands of incensed passengers trapped under the English Channel for up to 16 hours. As Eurostar launches an inquiry into the breakdowns, amateur footage of the passengers' ordeal reveals the beleaguered company's poor handling of the situation and the extent of public anger.
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The nearly 2,500 passengers trapped in the tunnel on Saturday have been rescued, but are still nursing feelings of anger and incomprehension at Eurostar's perceived inaction following the successive breakdowns, and the lack of assistance and information afforded to passengers. The website TechCrunch describes how, even as despairing passengers crowded the social networking service Twitter with messages of anguish, the company's official twitter feed sent out cheerful promotional messages.
Passengers described being locked in the trains for hours with no power, air conditioning, food or water before being evacuated though the freezing tunnel, by foot and in the dark, onto car transport trains with no seats and only one toilet.
UPDATE (22/12/2009 - 10am): a limited service was resumed today after three days of cancellations. The first train from Paris left Gare du Nord at 8.11am, but Eurostar says that normal service will not pick up until after Christmas.
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Eurostar says it believes the breakdowns occurred when the trains moved from the freezing outside temperatures into the warmer tunnel, but the company is at a loss to explain why so many trains broke down simultaneously. On Monday, it conducted several test runs in an attempt to shed light on the circumstances of the power failures. If the runs are successful, a Eurostar says traffic will partially resume on Tuesday Dec. 22.
Given the backlog caused by cancelled trains, the company warned it would not be able to carry all the passengers due to travel over the next few days, leaving scores stranded ahead of Christmas.
The French government ordered an independent investigation into the causes of the breakdowns and President Nicolas Sarkozy summoned French rail chief Guillaume Pépy to demand an explanation. Eurostar has pledged to compensate passengers blocked in the trains and in stations over the weekend, although the exact amount remains unclear.
"That’s enough! Let us out, now!"
French TV channel FRANCE 2 collected these amateur images from passengers who were stuck in the Eurostar trains on Saturday. At one point, a passenger explodes and demands to be let out of the train, while staff on board appear completely at a loss. The video shows a train hostess lock herself in a toilet, crying.