January 7, 2010 / 10:18 AM / 9 years ago

Stricken Eurostar train towed out of Channel Tunnel

LONDON (Reuters) - A Eurostar passenger train got stuck in the Channel Tunnel on Thursday after developing a technical fault, the second time in three weeks that trains have broken down in freezing conditions.

Passengers wait in a busy check-in line at St Pancras International Station, after severe disruption to the Eurostar service, in London, January 7, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

The Brussels-London service was towed out of the tunnel linking France and England and its 200 passengers transferred to a waiting train to complete their journey, Eurostar said.

A spokesman for SNCF, the French state railway firm that partly owns Eurostar, said the likely cause lay with the train’s on-board signalling system rather than bad weather.

“It’s not a problem linked to the cold or snow,” the spokesman said.

Last month’s failure, which brought a string of cancellations and chaotic scenes at railway stations, was blamed on powdery snow that melted into the trains.

A Eurostar spokesman said there would be knock-on delays to services because of the breakdown, but that no other trains had developed faults.

Long queues had built up at London’s St. Pancras International station after the breakdown, which came as northern Europe shivered in severe winter weather.

Passengers wait in a busy check-in line at St Pancras International Station, after severe disruption to the Eurostar service, in London, January 7, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

Eurostar, owned by the French and Belgian state railways firms and by Britain, suspended all services for three days to find out what went wrong and to ensure trains ran safely.

“TRACTION PROBLEMS”

Eurotunnel, the Channel Tunnel operator, earlier said the train had been stuck for at least an hour after experiencing “traction problems.” It said it had dispatched a rescue unit to assist and help pull the train out.

A spokesman for Eurotunnel said all Eurostar services had been temporarily halted as a precaution, although shuttle services for cars and trucks were still operating.

December’s stoppages stranded tens of thousands of passengers before the hectic Christmas period, ignited a major row over who was to blame for the chaos and even drew strong criticism from French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

An independent review ordered into the service disruption in December is due to report its findings by the end of January.

Eurostar has said the trains suffered electrical failure last month caused by condensation when moving from cold air in northern France into the warmer tunnel.

Passengers accused Eurostar of poor communication when they were trapped in trains in the tunnel for hours.

Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi; additional reporting by Sophie Hardach in Paris; Editing by Keith Weir and Rupert Winchester

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