Eurotunnel services delayed further after fire

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Media captionMany Eurostar passengers are stuck in Brussels and Paris

Eurotunnel has delayed the resumption of vehicle and freight services through the Channel Tunnel after a lorry fire.

The firm said it was taking longer than anticipated to restart trains because of "residue smoke" and customers would be offered transfers to ferries.

Passenger train operator Eurostar cancelled 26 services, but says it will run a "full service" on Sunday for people with bookings, with some delays.

No-one was hurt in the fire at the French end of the north tunnel.

Passengers were safely evacuated from trains in the tunnel, and the fire "was quickly brought under control by the emergency services", Eurotunnel said on its Twitter account.

The company, which runs vehicle and freight shuttles through the tunnel, said an inspection was under way. It said it anticipated resuming overnight services through its south tunnel, which was unaffected by the fire.

But in a tweet shortly before midnight, the company said it was "taking slightly longer than anticipated to recommence services" as it needed to be sure any residue smoke had cleared completely.

Customers would be offered transfers to ferries until services recommenced but this would not be until after 06:00 GMT on Sunday, it added.

There is expected to be a reduced timetable on Sunday, it said.

Further delays

The director of public affairs at Eurotunnel, John Keefe, said the north tunnel was being cleaned up and having damage repaired.

Eurostar will be running a "full service" on Sunday for passengers who have "an existing reservation for this date", it said in a statement.

Services would be subject to delays of between 30 and 60 minutes because the north tunnel is expected to remain closed, it added.

"We would strongly advise passengers whose journeys were impacted today by the problems in Eurotunnel not to come to our stations unless they have rebooked through our contact centre," Eurostar said.

Eurostar's customer care number is 03432 186 186, or +44 1777 777 878 for people outside the UK.

Eurotunnel's information line is +44 8444 63 00 00.

Meanwhile, P&O Ferries said an extra ferry service had been put on between Dover and Calais on Saturday as a result of the fire.

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Media captionPassenger Ben Lawton describes how his cabin filled with smoke

Earlier, Eurotunnel had said the alarm was raised when two CO2 detectors were triggered at 11:25 GMT.

A load on a lorry on board a train, en route from the UK to France, had been "smouldering", a Eurotunnel source said.

Eurostar - which operates passenger services through the tunnel between Paris, London and Brussels - said 26 of its trains have been cancelled on Saturday afternoon.

One passenger Ben Lawton described how he was taken to a "makeshift medical centre in Calais" after being evacuated from a train inside the tunnel and given a gas mask.

"We were taken to an airtight concrete room within the tunnel and had to wait for two hours. Then we were taken by coach to Calais," he said.

Image caption Eurotunnel trains being held at Folkestone
Image caption Passengers queuing at St Pancras to rebook their Eurostar tickets
Image caption Lorries bound for the Eurotunnel service are queuing at Folkestone

Another passenger Johnny Chatterton was travelling by Eurostar from London to Paris when his train was sent back to St Pancras, having been stopped at Ashford.

He said there was a queue of up to 400 people at St Pancras station.

"We've been told we have to try and book again, possibly for tomorrow," he said.

John Hope was travelling to Paris with his girlfriend when their train was turned back.

"This was meant to be a birthday treat for my girlfriend but it has turned into a pretty poor experience all round," he said.

Stephen Hicks' train was turned back towards Paris after it was diverted. He was in a group of 12 travelling from Les Moutiers to Ashford on a "fully occupied train," he told the BBC.

"Our train was stopped at Lille and there was confusion over what was happening. We are going to be in Paris for the night but we have no idea where we'll be staying."

Nigel Harris, managing editor of Rail Magazine, said thousands of passengers could have been disrupted by the fire.

"If you have 26 trains cancelled or reversed with a capacity of 780 people per train that is over 20,000 people immediately affected by the train that we know about."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Eurostar trains are seen here being held at Paris Gare du Nord station
Image copyright Simon Lamrock
Image caption Police are seen here at a Eurostar train at St Pancras International
Image copyright Johnny Chatterton
Image caption Passengers are queuing at St Pancras to rebook their tickets

The Independent's travel editor, Simon Calder, said it was going to be difficult for people trying to make alternative travel arrangements as there were not "that many flights between London and Paris and Brussels on a Saturday afternoon or a Sunday morning".

He added: "Motorists who were going on the tunnel from Calais to Folkestone will of course be able to just switch to one of the ferries which are operating."

Because it is closer to France, Eurotunnel's French incident control centre at Calais has been co-ordinating the response to the incident.

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