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Wednesday, 30 October, 2002, 19:32 GMT
Eurostar's 'salt on line' chaos goes on
Tourists outside Disneyland Paris
EuroDisney visitors were caught up in the chaos
The Eurostar Channel Tunnel train service between the United Kingdom, France and Belgium has been suspended for another whole day - because of salt on the line.

Officials had scheduled trains - which were halted on Monday night - to start running again from midday on Wednesday.


It's an exceptional situation due to the storms on Sunday

SNCF spokesman

But ongoing technical problems, caused by the sea salt flung onto the line in northern France by the weekend storms, have forced the further delay for the whole of Wednesday.

French state rail company SNCF has said the trains will restart with the 0515 GMT Thursday service from London to Paris.

On Wednesday, vehicle services on the Eurotunnel shuttle have been running again.

Waves batter northern French port of Auderville
The storms sent sea spray crashing ashore

The continued Eurostar suspension sent travel chaos for passengers into its third day.

The problems were compounded on Tuesday evening when reports emerged that a helicopter had crashed on the line in northern France.

Eurostar chief executive Richard Brown said the crash occurred on Tuesday afternoon in the Haute Picardie region, cutting power lines.

The helicopter incident followed the severe storms which swept across much of Western Europe, depositing large quantities of salt water, whipped up from the stormy seas, onto tracks and overhead power lines near Calais.

The salt crystallised onto power lines and tracks, clogging it up and causing short circuits.

"It's an exceptional situation due to the storms on Sunday," said an SNCF spokesman.

Tens of thousands of French homes were also left without power by the damage caused by salt and sand.

Estimates late on Tuesday said 30,000 homes were affected.

Stranded

The rail service suspension, which began at 1730 GMT on Monday night, left up to 7,000 passengers stranded overnight.

At least six trains were reportedly stuck during their journeys - some for several hours. No passengers were stuck in the tunnel itself, said officials.


We didn't have any information... I slept here, in the cold, without covers

Stranded English passenger

Other services were cancelled before they left.

Some of the stranded passengers were forced to spend Monday night sleeping on trains in Paris, Lille and Calais.

"We didn't have any information. I slept here, in the cold, without covers," said an English pensioner who spent the night in a train at Lille station.

Thousands more travellers had their journeys disrupted as the chaos continued into Tuesday and Wednesday.

EuroDisney

Some passengers trying to get from Paris to London switched their journeys to the air.

One plane was specially chartered on Tuesday to take 700 people, most of them British, from Eurostar's EuroDisney terminal to London, SNCF said.

Belgian officials laid on bus services to Calais to connect with cross-Channel ferries.

Passengers who have to cancel their travel plans will be reimbursed, while anyone who got stranded in mid-journey will get a free ticket for a future journey.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tom Edwards
"For many it means another night stranded in London"
See also:

15 Aug 02 | Europe
19 Aug 02 | Europe
05 Jan 02 | Europe
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