Channel Tunnel rail services back on track after disruption

15th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Thousands of passengers travelling through the Channel Tunnel between Britain and continental Europe suffered heavy delays on Saturday after the tunnel was temporarily closed.

Eurostar passenger trains and the Eurotunnel car and freight train services were delayed by up to four hours after a carbon dioxide detector was activated in the tunnel and a Eurotunnel train had to be evacuated.

"There was some smoke emanating from a shuttle transporting trucks. Within 10 minutes all passengers were evacuated into the service tunnel," a Eurotunnel spokeswoman told AFP.

Eurostar passenger services -- the high-speed trains linking London with Paris and Brussels -- plus Eurotunnel shuttles resumed later in the day and services were almost back to normal by 5:00 p.m. British time (1600 GMT).

"It's all starting to improve, the departures and arrivals now will have very little delay," a Eurostar spokeswoman said.

Eurotunnel, which operates a drive-on train service for cars and trucks, said the train which caused the problem was being examined.

A Kent Police spokesman said: "A freight train in the Channel Tunnel was evacuated this morning after a carbon dioxide sensor was activated.

"There were 30 passengers, two members of staff and 25 heavy goods vehicles on board the freight train, which was in the south tunnel travelling towards the UK when the sensor was activated just before 7:18 am (0618 GMT).

"As a precaution all 30 passengers were evacuated and were brought safely back to the UK."

He confirmed that no fire had broken out.

A raging blaze on a Eurotunnel train in September 2008 caused a two-day suspension of services.

And more than 2,000 passengers were stuck in broken-down Eurostar trains in the tunnel in December last year after heavy snow in northern France caused the locomotives' electrical systems to fail.

Hundreds of thousands of passengers were caught up in the ensuing disruption which lasted for days in the busy pre-Christmas period.

The Channel Tunnel runs for 50 kilometres (30 miles) between Kent in southeast England and northern France. Opened in 1994, it is the world's longest uninterrupted undersea link.

There are two rail tunnels -- with crossover points between them allowing trains to switch from one to the other -- and a service tunnel in the middle.

© 2010 AFP

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