Eurostar service disruption will go on until after Christmas
Eurostar services thrown into chaos by snow will not return to normal until “after Christmas”, the company's chief executive has conceded.
Passengers left stranded for three days during the saga reacted with anger after bosses resumed services and then told them they were still not guaranteed to get home for Christmas.
Speaking at a press conference to launch an independent inquiry into the disruption, chief executive Richard Brown said: “We will not be fully back to normal until after Christmas because we have a number of trains which have to be repaired and we have modifications to do.
“The good news is that if you turn up at the station we are able to take all the passengers that are turning up to travel. We have been pretty successful in clearing the backlog of passengers waiting to travel since both Saturday and Sunday.”
Christopher Garnett, a former commercial director of Eurotunnel, will lead investigations into the disruptions. Results were likely to be returned next month, he said.
He told a press conference: “We are keen to get on with this review and ascertain the causes and impact of Eurostar's problems over recent days.”
Travellers queued in their thousands to board the first journeys out of St Pancras International after three days of cancellations.
Services operated on a “shuttle basis” to get as many people across the Channel as possible, a Eurostar spokeswoman said.
Marc Stevens, 39, his wife and 18-month-old daughter were among thousands stuck after snow got into the electrics of a number of trains.
Mr Stevens, an IT worker from Reading, Berkshire, who was due to travel to Paris on Saturday, said: “We are travelling with a young child yet we are not assured of a seat.
“It's been an appalling few days as we have missed out on seeing relatives who we had never met our daughter. We just want to go now.”
Mother-of-four Gisele Bulembi was in a particular rush to travel to visit her sister, who had broken both her legs.
Herding her children and Christmas presents through the queues, she also revealed that she was carrying a turkey to cook on December 25.
The 35-year-old, from Hackney, east London, said: “My sister lives in Brussels but she recently broke both legs and cannot do any cooking. It's difficult enough carrying all this stuff. The fact we might not even get a train just makes things worse.”
Angeliki Pollato and Bryan Field, who were travelling to Italy for Christmas, said rail bosses should have been prepared for the big chill.
American Mr Field, 33, a physics professor at Durham University, said: “It's amazing how a little bit of snow causes complete breakdown.”
Arrivals at St Pancras from Europe also spoke of their nightmare journeys.
Stephanie Budd, 34, from Wallington, Surrey, had taken her four children — aged six, four, three and one — to Disneyland Paris as a Christmas treat.
“But she said: “I wish we'd never gone.
“We have spent three nights in Brussels as accommodation was full everywhere else.”
There were emotional scenes at the Gare du Nord station in Paris as passengers arrived from London.
Kim Duguet and her husband Laurent tearfully embraced members of his family in a long-awaited reunion that they had feared might not happen before Christmas.
The couple, who live in San Diego in the US, travelled via London to spend the holidays with Mr Duguet's father and brother, whom he had not seen in eight years.
Mrs Duguet said: “It was very, very important to my husband to come home to Paris.