20 Dec 2010

Eurostar closes queues as snow hits services

Foreign Affairs Correspondent

Eurostar is turning away new passengers until Tuesday as a restricted service is put in place because of the snow, as the Salvation Army helps those queuing outside, as Jonathan Rugman discovers.

Eurostar has confirmed it will be operating a restricted service this week and has asked passengers without tickets not to travel to the station for the rest of Monday.

There is frustration, anger and amusement on the streets outside King’s Cross St Pancras. The pavements have been packed with queuing passengers for several hours. Hundreds have been waiting for a train in freezing temperatures since early this morning.

Accents from across Europe can be heard criticising Britain’s rail infrastructure and, of course, the weather.

Lots of people are struggling with the cold Andrew Dunkinson, Salvation Army

In the shadow of St Pancras, the Salvation Army’s emergency response vehicle has been called in to help.

Staff have been serving tea, coffee and hot water to hundreds of shivering passengers. They are even filling up hot water bottles for those who have them.

The charity’s Andrew Dunkinson said they were called in on Sunday afternoon: “The Salvation Army emergency vehicle tends to be called out for civil emergencies, fires or disasters. We’ve been here for 24 hours and we’ll stay here until the queues subside.

“Lots of people are struggling with the cold but the Salvation Army provides some welcome relief.”

Earlier this morning one waiting passenger collapsed in the freezing temperatures.

Channel 4 News understands it took more than an hour for an ambulance to arrive. She was helped by a doctor who was also queuing. Her condition was not thought to be life threatening.

Eurostar passengers are queuing in freezing weather (Reuters)

Delays

Many waiting passengers are from the continent and trying to get home for Christmas.

One Dutch woman told Channel 4 News she was shocked by the delays: “It’s terrible. When we went from Holland on Friday it was snowing but everything worked: the train, the plane everything worked.

It is absolutely outrageous. Nancy Bogson, Eurostar passenger

“Now we come here and nothing works. It’s terrible.”

Nancy Bogson, from Belgium, was angry more people were not allowed to wait inside the station: “All these people have been waiting for about two hours and forty minutes.

“We were told by people from Eurostar it was forbidden for more people to wait in the warm station. It is absolutely outrageous knowing that it’s minus 5 Celsius right now.

“Waiting in the cold, in Britain, knowing that the station is huge and empty is outrageous.”

Eurostar said services were being cancelled and “severely delayed” due to speed restrictions in England and France.

A statement on Eurostar’s website said it was not accepting anymore passengers from London or Paris and that people should not travel to the stations today. A restricted service will operate for the rest of the week.