Page last updated at 06:42 GMT, Saturday, 19 December 2009

Channel Tunnel closure causes delays on M20

Eurostar train

Drivers have been urged to avoid part of the M20 in Kent after the closure of the Channel Tunnel caused tailbacks.

Four Eurostar trains broke down in the tunnel due to the extreme cold, leaving more than 2,000 people trapped and two trains without heating and lighting.

Kent Police urged drivers to avoid the Folkestone and Dover areas of the M20.

It has also introduced Operation Stack, meaning heavy goods vehicles will be held between junctions eight (Leeds Castle) and nine (Ashford).

Traffic not heading for the Channel Tunnel or the Port of Dover will be diverted along the A20.

People stranded

The force said motorists turned away from the tunnel had nowhere to park and this was exacerbating traffic problems caused by the severe weather around junctions 11, 11A and 12.

Elsewhere in Kent, the Port of Dover said it was "full" and advised anyone who had not yet set off to postpone their journey.

Eurostar said the temperature difference between the cold open air in France and the warm tunnel under the English Channel had caused the trains to break down.

Passengers from one of the trains without heating and lighting have been taken by shuttle to Folkestone to await a train to London.

Passengers from the other affected train were being put on a shuttle to take them back to France.

The two trains with heating and lighting were being pushed to Folkestone, from where passengers were expected be bussed to London.

Heavy snow fell around the Kent coast overnight, but the Met Office said this was not as bad as the snowfall on Thursday.

Several inches of snow fell, leaving many roads in the county impassable, with cars abandoned and people stranded.

More than 300 schools were shut on Friday and train services were severely disrupted.

People have been urged not to travel by car because of plummeting temperatures, snow and ice.

Police have also asked motorists who were forced to abandon their vehicles to leave them where they are until the weather improves and it is safe to return.

Power cuts

A Kent Police spokesman added: "Any vehicles blocking routes will be safely moved to the side of the road by the Highways Agency.

"If drivers have reached a place of safety they should stay there until the weather improves."

About 200 drivers on the M20 and M2 were stuck in tailbacks overnight.

During the night a lorry jack-knifed on the A21, near the Tunbridge Wells turn-off, leaving motorists stuck in the snow for three hours.

Among them was television presenter Davina McCall, who told BBC Radio 5 live she was "wedged in a whole series of cars".

"I did call the police after a couple of hours and they came pretty quickly," she said.

The Big Brother presenter said she had invited a couple who were walking to come and sit in her car, and added: "I quite like times like this because British people stick together."

The snow has also been partly blamed for a series of power cuts across south-east England.

EDF Energy said there had been a number of faults on their overhead lines, with areas affected including Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells, Rochester, Sittingbourne, Dartford and Maidstone.



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