Eurotunnel chaos: passengers 'freak out' while stuck in emergency tunnel for five hours

The journey from Calais to Folkestone should have taken only 35 minutes

Passengers are forced to wait in an emergency service tunnel under the English Channel after a train from Calais to Folkestone broke down. Photo: Twitter / Kate Scott
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Eurotunnel Le Shuttle has apologised to hundreds of passengers who were stuck in tunnels for up to five hours after a train broke down under the English Channel.

The 3.50pm service from Calais to Folkestone was stopped in the tunnel after an alarm sounded on board the train carrying 100 vehicles.

Passengers were ushered into an emergency service tunnel before being transferred to a different train bound for Kent on England's south coast. They arrived at their destination five hours after boarding the train in northern France for a journey that should have taken 35 minutes.

Frustrated customers vented their anger over the “awful service”.

Passenger Michael Harrison said only 10 minutes into the crossing the train’s lights went out and it came to a standstill.

“We were told they needed to investigate an issue with the wheels,” Mr Harrison, from Cranbrook, Kent, told the PA news agency. “It took approximately one-and-a-half hours for them to investigate and obviously not find anything.

“They reset things and set off for another five minutes. It happened again at which time we waited a further couple of hours to decide they couldn’t see a problem but had to evacuate the train to another train.”

After being transferred on to another train, more problems cropped up and there were “gasps of incredulity” from passengers when it then ground to a halt.

“That train then stopped as it couldn’t get traction, presumably as it was long and had no weight on it. We finally arrived in Folkestone six hours after boarding.”

James Hamilton posted a photo on Twitter showing dozens of passengers on a train, saying “we’ve been stuck on a broken down Le Shuttle for three hours. We’re being evacuated”.

While the incident was being dealt with, the company continued to operate on its remaining line but at a reduced service, which left drivers waiting for hours to board trains.

Ross Malickis shared photos on Twitter of cars queuing, although it was not clear if it was at Calais or Folkestone. He said the overflow car park was full and those who arrived first were given tickets for the ferry.

“The others are being sent to a trap where they can’t turn around and forced to wait,” he said. “Awful service.”

Jonel Schwarz posted a picture of an almost-full car park and passengers crowded around chatting.

“We've been caught in the trap for over four hours,” he tweeted. “Had we been given any info sooner we never would have entered the trap in the first place.”

A passenger who was evacuated from the broken down train, and wished not to be named, told PA that “several people were freaking out about being down in the service tunnel, it’s a bit of a weird place”.

“We were stuck down there for at least five hours,” he said. “If I’ve got a gripe it’s that they knew several hundred people were arriving at Folkestone who hadn’t eaten for five, six or more hours and there was absolutely nothing for us here.

“Just huge queues for Burger King.”

Eurotunnel said passengers were provided with food and drink as the original shuttle was brought out and they were eventually reunited with their vehicles. The company apologised for the setbacks.

Passengers were stranded in tunnels for up to five hours after a Eurotunnel train broke down. Photo: Twitter / Michael Harrison / PA

“A train has broken down in the tunnel and we are in the process of transferring customers to a separate passenger shuttle via the service tunnel, to return to our Folkestone terminal,” a spokesman for Eurotunnel Le Shuttle said.

“We apologise sincerely for this inconvenience.

“Due to the earlier train fault, we advise you not to travel to the terminal tonight.

“Please arrive after 6am tomorrow."

The company on Wednesday said its services were back to normal.

Updated: August 24, 2022, 10:34 AM