LONDON — Four passenger trains broke down in the Channel Tunnel between France and Britain, stranding more than 2,000 passengers for hours Saturday, many without heating, light or water.
Eurostar executives suspended service, blaming the breakdowns in the trains from Paris on wintry weather conditions on the French side of the English Channel.
Fatigued passengers arrived in London 10 hours late after a long night trapped on trains, where they said some people suffered panic attacks because of lack of air in dark, unheated cars short of water and supplies.
“They were useless at giving us information,” said passenger Alison Sturgeon, who vowed never to take Eurostar again. “The conditions on that train were terrible. We slept on the floor on newspapers like hobos and nobody knew what was going on.”
Her husband Steven Sturgeon said two off-duty London policemen helped people keep their spirits up, but that no Eurostar crew members provided help or guidance during the long hours they were trapped.
Embarrassed Eurostar executives apologized for the breakdowns and confusion.
“Eurostar is very, very sorry that so many passengers were inconvenienced last night and this morning due to weather conditions in northern France,” chief executive Richard Brown said. “We are working hard to get passengers home; we will give them full refunds and another ticket.”
Brown blamed the breakdowns on extremely low temperatures and heavy snow in northern France, which he called the worst in eight years. The problem began because of the abrupt temperature change when trains traveled through extremely cold air in France and then entered the warm tunnel, he said.
Eurostar said there were “extreme subzero” temperatures (in Centigrade) in northern France. The temperature inside the tunnels varies according to its depth but was much warmer than the air outside, it said.