Page last updated at 15:06 GMT, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Eurostar queues shorten to offer light at end of tunnel

By Catherine Miller
BBC News

Passengers queue at St Pancras
Massive queues in London's St Pancras station had thinned out within a few hours

Passengers began arriving at St Pancras at 0300 GMT, in the hope of finally completing their journeys across the Channel.

By the time Eurostar began boarding passengers on the first train to Paris around 0730, the queue stretched half way along the cavernous station and half way back again.

Many remained sceptical that trains would actually depart - or that if they did, they would make it through the tunnel without breaking down.

The stories of the 2,000 people who had been trapped in the tunnel on Friday night - some for up to 15 hours - were seared in their minds.

But once the first train pulled out of the station, the mood among passengers lifted.

Passengers arrive at St Pancras
Some passengers completed their journeys to London three days late

And there was relief painted on the faces of the Eurostar executives who had come to see it off.

They believe it marks the beginning of the end of a disastrous few days.

The explanation that technical problems were due to the "wrong kind of snow" has been widely ridiculed.

And the tales of furious passengers combined with a chaotic press operation have tarnished a previously unblemished brand.

But now, as snow and ice create new horror stories on the roads and at airports, Eurostar is glad to have a good news story to tell.

The smiles of the first passengers to arrive at St Pancras this morning completed the happy ending.

"It's really good to be home," said one woman, who gave her name as Jan, as she pushed her luggage through the arrivals gate with her husband.

"We've been in Brussels for three extra days so we're really relieved."

Check-in 'deserted'

Angela Humby from was also glad to have arrived in London.

"Now I've just got to make it to Cheshire. I hope the trains are running this side too," she said, laughing.

By early afternoon the check-in desk at St Pancras was almost deserted.

Staff arrived bearing muffins and snacks but had barely any queuing passengers left to offer them to.

Eurostar executives seemed as surprised as they were thankful to see a backlog which some had predicted could number in the tens of thousands vanish within hours.

Their hopes that all those affected by the disruption will be home for Christmas no longer seem unrealistic.

It seems disaster has been averted for them and their customers.



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SEE ALSO
First Eurostar train leaves Paris
22 Dec 09 |  Europe
Eurostar travel chaos hits hard
21 Dec 09 |  Europe

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