Winter transport chaos grows in Europe

21st December 2009, Comments 0 comments

Winter freeze continues to jam the motorway, delay trains and suspend services of the Eurostar cross-Channel trains.

Paris – The French government expressed outrage Monday over the breakdown of Eurostar cross-Channel trains that has stranded tens of thousands of people as deadly winter transport chaos spread across Europe.

A car that veered off an icy road caused the derailment of a Paris commuter train, injuring 36 people and adding to the agony of a system badly hit by a 12-day old strike. Another commuter train in the Croatian capital hit a buffer Monday injuring 50 people.

Six people were killed in accidents in Germany and three in Austria. More flights were cancelled in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and many main highways were blocked across Europe where some regions had more than two feet (50 centimetres) of snow.

The breakdown of the Eurostar rail service under the Channel, linking London to Paris and Brussels, has symbolised Europe's suffering.

After the nightmare of more than 2,000 people stuck in the tunnel when five trains broke down, tens of thousands more people have missed trains that have been cancelled since Friday night.

With no services planned until at least Tuesday, France's Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau ordered an investigation into the breakdown, which Eurostar said has been caused by trains unable to handle the change from freezing temperatures outside to warm temperatures in the tunnel.

Bussereau, on a trip to Beijing, said: "There have already been incidents in the Eurotunnel... but to have traffic blocked for several days in a row, that is not acceptable," Bussereau said.

France's Durable Development Minister Jean-Louis Borloo summoned the head of the French SNCF state rail company, Guillaume Pepy, to demand an explanation into the "unbelievable" treatment of Eurostar passengers.

Eurostar said it had launched its own review by independent experts into the breakdown of the high speed trains.

The winter storms caused other accidents across Europe.

A Paris commuter train derailed late Sunday injuring at least 36 people, according to authorities.

A car swerved on ice and hit a bridge wall sending concrete onto the rails of the RER C commuter line at Choisy-le-Roi southeast of Paris, police said. Firemen had to evacuate 300 people on the train. The driver of the car has been arrested.

No trains ran on the line Monday. The RER A line running across the Paris region has been out of action for 12 days because of a strike.

Authorities were also investigating whether the heavy snow caused a crash at Zagreb's main railway station where the commuter train failed to stop and smashed into a concrete buffer. One person among the 50 injured suffered life-threatening injuries, Croatian police said.

Air traffic was again badly hit across Europe.

Seven hundred people spent the night on camp beds at Amsterdam-Schipol airport. Authorities said more flights were likely to be cancelled after dozens were grounded Sunday.

The Dutch rail network was also badly hit Monday with the railway company advising commuters to stay at home.

Heavy snowfall led to more delays and cancellations at Frankfurt and Duesseldorf airports. More than 200 flights in Frankfurt were cancelled Sunday and Duesseldorf airport was closed most of the day, leading to some 300 flights being cancelled or redirected.

At least six people died throughout Germany over the weekend due to exposure to Arctic temperatures or in car accidents on icy motorways.

Temperatures are forecast to rise this week after hitting a frigid -33.6 degrees Celsius (-28.5 degrees Fahrenheit) Saturday in Bavaria.

Twenty percent of flights out of Paris-Charles de Gaulle were expected to be cancelled because of the remains of snow on the runway and freezing temperatures, the DGAC civil aviation authority said. Many others were delayed. Forty percent of flights were cancelled on Sunday.

Only two of the four runways at Madrid-Barajas airport operated Monday because of heavy snow and an airport spokesman said more than 50 arrivals or departures had been cancelled.

Eight high speed trains going from Madrid to Barcelona, Malaga and Seville had also been cancelled.

Two flights into Brussels airport were cancelled and about 20 other arrivals delayed. One flight to Skopje was cancelled and dozens delayed.

AFP / Expatica

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