flooded tunnel
Photo Credit: SouthEastern Railway/Handout via Reuters

Flooded Tunnels Halt Eurostar Services, Disrupting New Year Travel Plans

New Year’s travel plans were thrown into chaos as all Eurostar trains got canceled on Saturday, marking the second significant disruption in just 10 days, due to flooded tunnels in southern England.

These cancellations come on the heels of a recent unsanctioned strike by French unions just before Christmas, coupled with the UK Met Office’s warnings of adverse weather conditions, including rain, snow, and ice, affecting vast areas.

The sudden cancellation left hundreds of passengers stranded at St Pancras station in London. Among them were Nicole Carrera, 29, and Christopher Carrera, 31, a newlywed couple from New York. Their dream of celebrating New Year’s Eve at Disneyland Paris was shattered. “We now face a delayed arrival in Paris, changing our plans to merely exploring the city,” Nicole expressed her disappointment.

Initially, Eurostar had called off services only until 4 pm UK time (1600 GMT). However, with the persistent flooding in two key tunnels, the company was forced to extend the cancellation for the entire day. Eurostar issued an apology, recognizing the significant impact on travelers during this crucial post-holiday period.

Similarly disappointed were Christina David, 25, and Georgina Benyamin, 26, from Sydney, who planned to conclude their European tour in Paris. David shared her feelings of frustration and sadness, noting the emotional atmosphere at the station, where many found themselves without accommodation.

The affected tunnels, near Ebbsfleet International station in Kent, led to a complete halt of Eurostar’s services from London to key destinations like Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam.

Southeastern Railway confirmed the severity of the situation, stating that the flooding had blocked all lines. Meanwhile, Simon Shaw, 36, and Heather Shaw, 37, from central England, recounted their disrupted plans for a skiing trip in the French Alps, describing the scene at the station as chaotic.

This disruption follows closely after the resolution of the French union strike before Christmas, which had caused extensive delays and confusion at major rail hubs in both Paris and London.

This year has been particularly challenging for UK travelers, who have faced numerous disruptions due to strikes, severe weather, and other issues. Earlier incidents include extended waiting times at Dover in April, technical faults affecting flights in August, and cancellations due to Storm Ciaran in November.

The ongoing disputes over pay and conditions in the rail sector continue to affect travel, with the RMT union recently agreeing to a pay deal while the Aslef union’s negotiations remain ongoing.

Eurostar, predominantly owned by the French state-owned SNCF Voyageurs, narrowly avoided bankruptcy during the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to a significant bailout from its shareholders, including the French government.

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