Page last updated at 18:32 GMT, Monday, 21 December 2009

Stranded Eurostar travellers battle to get back to UK

Eurostar passengers stranded in Paris, London and Brussels have described their experiences as they attempt to get home in time for Christmas.

Mike Savage
Journalist Michael Savage was on holiday in Paris with his two flatmates

Independent newspaper journalist Michael Savage, from Hackney, London, has been stranded in Paris since Sunday.

He said he had "given up on Eurostar" and decided to "bite the bullet" and make his own arrangements to try and get home in time for Christmas.

He told the BBC news website: "It's going to be a day long trek - we're getting a train to the coast at 10am on Tuesday, then a P&O ferry at 3pm to Dover, then a train to London - we should be back by 6pm."

The journey will take Mr Savage and his two friends about eight hours, and cost about £90 each. It will also mean missing two days of work.

But the 27-year-old said "it was all about damage limitation".

He said Eurostar staff at Gard du Nord had offered very little advice or information.

"They were handing out croissants and coffee, but in terms of information, there wasn't any.

"The whole thing is unbelievable, I can't really understand it. Trains have run in snow before. It is not an unprecedented event and you would have thought the people that run Eurostar would be more prepared."

Simon Creswell
Simon Creswell said the lack of communication was 'comedic'

Mr Creswell, a business project manager, from Wokingham, Berkshire, has been stuck in Paris since Sunday.

He said the "lack of communication and apparent disorganisation had been comedic at best".

"The general atmosphere was Eurostar had dropped it, they were not interested, it was if they were saying 'forget it, book somewhere else'.

"They had no disaster recovery plan whatsoever," he said.

The 48-year-old, who regularly travels by Eurostar to visit his girlfriend in Paris, said he was "very disappointed".

"They've had problems before with snow, even this February, I appreciate it is a bit unprecedented, but there is a general lack of thought.

"I have had to take two days as holiday. I am fed up. It's not the end of the world, but it an inconvenience," he said.

Mr Creswell said he had opted against "queuing his life away" and booked a 7-hour coach trip back to Britain on Tuesday.

"I couldn't get one for today because they were all sold out. I couldn't trust the planes - Heathrow could be affected by the weather and flights cost about £500 anyway.

"I'm due to come back to Paris by Eurostar on 7th January - I just hope it doesn't happen again then," he added.

Eurostar terminal at St Pancras
Eurostar has been criticised for its response

Lewis Shoulders, from Surrey, has been stuck in Brussels since Friday.

The 16-year-old was on his way back from a holiday with his girlfriend's family in Disneyland, Paris, when his train broke down and got stuck for 14 hours. It was then diverted to Belgium.

He is travelling in a party which includes five children under the age of five and says the whole experience has been "very upsetting".

He said the family only brought enough clothes and money to last four days.

"We have been put up a hotel and Eurostar are paying for breakfast, but we have to pay for lunch and dinner. We only have about 30 euros left.

"We are washing clothes in the sink and using hair dryers to dry them. The two babies - one is 16 months old, and one is seven months old - don't have milk.

"Eurostar are telling us nothing, we have to go down to the station every day to find out if we can stay in the hotel that night."

He said the group had been told they could try to get a ferry home, but with five children, they did not want to risk getting to a port and finding neither a ferry nor a hotel available.

Mr Shoulders said he was desperate to get home.

"It's not about Christmas. I am a carer for my mother, who is diabetic, blind and disabled, and I just want to get home to look after her," he said.

Wade Grimbly
Wade Grimbly still hopes to join his family for Christmas

Wade Grimbly, who lives in Paris, is still hoping to join his family in the UK for Christmas.

He was due to get the Eurostar on Monday and said he was "appalled" by the "disgraceful" lack of communication.

"I went down to the station and it was closed off and taped, but there was no-one to see.

"There is no alternative plan. All they are doing is handing out photocopies of instructions on how to get to the major airports - in French of course," he said.

And Mr Grimbly said it was not the first time Eurostar had cited a change in temperature as the cause of train problems.

"The same thing happened 10 years ago. I was on a train at the end of my Christmas holiday, on 30 or 31 December, and the train got stuck in the tunnel for exactly same reason.

"I got back at 1am, nothing had been organised. So nothing has changed," he said.

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