Eurostar services canceled indefinitely; tens of thousands affected

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Eurostar services canceled indefinitely

LONDON — Eurostar trains were canceled indefinitely, with the company saying it doesn’t know when service will resume as engineers investigate the mystery behind a glitch that left thousands stranded for hours in the darkened tunnel running under the English Channel.

With Christmas only days away and more than 55,000 passengers’ trips already canceled, the company is under intense pressure to find out what happened Friday, when five trains became stuck inside the tunnel overnight, leading to anger and panic among trapped passengers.

Eurostar said there will be no service Monday. The announcement Sunday promises more travel misery for thousands stranded on both sides of the English Channel. Eurostar runs services between England, France and Belgium.

The company said Sunday it had determined that severe weather conditions caused the original disruptions and that more work needs to be done to prepare the trains for winter.

The exact cause of the electrical fault that disabled the five trains — as well as one more that broke down outside of the tunnel and others that malfunctioned Saturday — is unknown.

On Saturday, executives blamed the faults on 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, which could have produced condensation and interfered with the trains’ electrical systems.

The cancellations have meant that at least 31,000 people in Britain, France and Belgium have had to cancel trips Saturday, and 26,000 more were expected to be affected Sunday.

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