Eurostar suspends services, probes 6 train failures

Passengers were stuck on the trains for up to 16 hours overnight on Friday because of technical faults caused by snow and sub-zero temperatures, Eurostar said.

Eurostar suspends services, probes 6 train failures
Eurostar rail services were suspended for a second day on Sunday as the company investigated why six trains carrying more than 2,500 passengers broke down, five of them in an undersea tunnel linking Britain and France.

Passengers were stuck on the trains for up to 16 hours overnight on Friday because of technical faults caused by snow and sub-zero temperatures, Eurostar said.

Eurostar said the trains failed after moving from cold air outside into the warmer tunnel, causing condensation which affected electrical systems.

Tunnel operator Eurotunnel said its shuttle service, which carries vehicles, and freight trains were still running.

"I can't guarantee our service will be working because we have suspended the service today until we get to the bottom of what happened on Friday night," said Richard Brown, chief executive of Eurostar, operated by French rail operator SNCF, its Belgian counterpart SNCB and British government-owned LCR.

"We will not start services again until we're sure we can get (the trains) through safely," he told BBC TV.

Many of the passengers trapped on Friday night in trains in the 51-km (32-mile) tunnel, the longest undersea subway in the world, spoke of their fury after they were left with no power, air conditioning, food or water.

Some complained Eurostar gave out little or no communication during their ordeal. Normal services from Brussels and Paris to London take about 2 hours.

"We are very sorry for what happened because clearly it was a very upsetting and distressing experience," Brown said.

"I'm not pretending it went well, I'm saying it went rather better than actually quite a few people are saying."

Nirj Deva, a member of the European Parliament for the South East of England, said Eurostar was guilty of incompetence.

"I therefore call on Richard Brown to admit that his company was not adequately prepared to deal with the situation, and to do the decent thing and resign," he said.

Asked if he would quit, Brown said it was important to get the service running again and to find out what had gone wrong.

"That's what I will be doing and focusing on over the next few days," he said.

Eurostar conveys about 40,000 people a day between Britain and continental Europe. The suspension of its services, coupled with problems with cross-Channel ferries and poor weather, has caused massive delays on major roads in southeastern England.

Last year, the Channel tunnel, which opened in 1994, was shut for two days after a large fire broke out on a freight train. A blaze in 1996 halted freight traffic for seven months.


Reuters
Last Mod: 20 Aralık 2009, 17:07
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