Page last updated at 17:15 GMT, Saturday, 19 December 2009

Angry travellers recall journeys

Angry passengers trapped overnight on Friday on five Eurostar trains because of the cold weather have been describing their "nightmare" journeys.

Lucy Morris
Student Lucy Morris was trapped in the tunnel for five hours

Sussex University student Ms Morris, from central London, spent about 17 hours trying to get home from a Christmas shopping trip in Paris.

She and a friend left Paris at 2120 GMT on Friday but became trapped overnight in the tunnel.

She told the BBC: "The air-conditioning went off, there was a weird sonar signal noise as they tried to restart the electrics, and the toilets weren't working.

"There has been no proper organisation. There is water but people are hungry. Staff are pleasant but have no idea. I'm exhausted and also angry at being treated so badly."

Once the train was towed out of the tunnel, they were transferred onto another train being pushed by a locomotive on the English side.

"Our feeling is why weren't we taken to a place where coaches could collect us?"

A rescued train
Passengers are to get a 150 payment and a free ticket

The former motorbike racer, who won the Isle of Man TT race nine times, was trapped on a stationary train in Calais overnight for 10 hours.

He said the lack of communication was "unforgiveable" and service "utterly disgraceful".

The motorbike exporter, who uses the shuttle every week, had been delivering a bike to Sweden.

He said: "It took me 12 hours to get from Calais terminal back to my home in Charing, Kent. It has been an absolute nightmare.

"They left us on a train for 10 hours in very cold conditions... it became a hostile situation for the staff to be in because people were getting very angry. I felt quite sorry for them, they were the face of Eurotunnel.

"There was no food or water for the first eight hours and they were not keeping anyone up to date.

"It was an utterly disgraceful service and the lack of communication was unforgiveable."

Mr Mortimer said he blamed the managers, who were probably "tucked up in bed", and said he would be seeking compensation.

Murray Head
The experience was like being in a war bunker, said Mr Head

Musician and actor Mr Head, who has starred in BBC One drama series Casualty, said he had been travelling from Paris for 17 hours and was stuck in the tunnel overnight for seven.

He said: "Luckily people suffered it well, but it beggars belief in terms of the lack of organisation, incompetence and lack of information on the part of Eurostar.

"The weirdest thing is if that if you had two trains stuck in the tunnel, why would you go in with a third train?

"The staff were as good as they could be but I've never been through any experience like it.

"Everybody mucks in, it's like being in a bunker in the Second World War, the spirit was very good.

"There was continual dithering until children became ill. The way it was handled was incredibly clumsy and incompetent."

Jo Tait
Jo Tait was forced to walk through the tunnel's service area in the dark

Ms Tait, a civilian employee at Warwickshire Police, had been on a pre-Christmas trip to Disneyland Paris with her mother.

She said her 18-hour journey home from Paris "tarnished" but did not totally spoil her trip.

"By the time we got home we'd forgotten some of the good things initially. I'm sure the memories will come back in the next couple of days," she said.

Her "exhausting" trip home to Rugby involved several trains, a freezing walk through the tunnel in the pitch black and countless delays.

She said: "The lack of communication caused people to become a lot more distressed than necessary, this wasn't helped by the train crews' poor English.

Jo Tait at Disneyland
Ms Tait said her trip to Disneyland Paris was "tarnished" not ruined

"We were sat in the dark scared, unsure what was happening with loud bangs. We had some marvellous off-duty police officers that helped take control of the situation."

Her train left Disneyland Paris at 1800 on Friday, stopped for four hours, then broke down as it was returning to Calais.

Passengers were transferred to a car transporter train in the tunnel, which eventually got to Folkstone, where they were transferred again on to a Eurostar train after more delays.

"We were all exhausted. We weren't ever told a huge amount of what was going on, the information was so vague. Everyone just wanted to get home," she said.

"I suppose when you're stuck in a train in the English Channel there isn't much that can be done, but some updates and the truth would have been appreciated."

Clare McNama
Mrs McNama said a lack of Eurostar managers was a "huge failing"

The mother-of-two from Maidstone in Kent was on the same train as Ms Tait. She had spent four days at Disneyland Paris with her husband James, son Jack, eight, and two-year-old daughter Etienne.

She said: "Adults and children alike were frightened and anxious. People were having panic and asthma attacks.

"A woman fainted in my arms and had to be taken off the train and children were vomiting and wetting themselves.

"Throughout this entire ordeal there was almost no information, no customer care and no help or advice.

"Passengers were left to fend for themselves and herded like cattle in Le Shuttle, with only French members of the rescue team speaking very little English and showing a complete lack of empathy to the conditions that we as a whole had endured."

She said the compensation offered of £150 and free ticket was not "apt" to the situation at hand.

"There was no calming authority... and that's what was needed, somebody who takes control. We all felt out of control," she said.

Eurostar train
Passengers say poor communication was the most glaring problem

The IT business development manager is still trying to get back to London from a business trip to Brussels - after more than 18 hours.

He left Brussels at about 2000 GMT and got as far as northern France, where he and the other passengers spent the night on the train with no drinking water.

They returned to Brussels more than 12 hours later and he is now travelling back to London.

He said: "I feel fine as long as I can get to London. At first I was told there were no trains, and I would have been stranded in Brussels for two more days.

"It was quite cold on the train and the children were struggling. The drinking water ran out just past midnight and food was not distributed until 6am.

"Communication was the main problem, there were lots of confusing messages. We were told the tunnel would open in two hours, then that it was completely closed.

"One positive thing was that people were very calm, most ended up sleeping on the train, there was no panic."

Passengers transferred to shuttle train. (pic - Lee Godfree).
Some Eurostar passengers were transferred on to a car shuttle train

The father, from Stowmarket in Suffolk, had been on a trip to Disneyland Paris with his wife and young son.

They were evacuated from one of the stranded trains, and arrived in Folkestone at 0500 GMT, having left Paris at 1837 GMT.

Mr Godfree said: "We were without power. We ran out of water, we ran out of food and there was very, very poor communication from the staff.

"We lost air conditioning when we lost the power. We had to open the emergency doors ourselves. The evacuation procedure we followed was one that we set down ourselves."

He said there were pregnant women, people in wheelchairs and hundreds of parents with young children on "filthy floors".

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