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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Josh Salisbury,Sami Quadri and Lydia Chantler-Hicks

London travel chaos as Euston services cancelled and last-minute strike hits Eurostar

Passengers in London have been hit by chaos on one of the busiest travel days of the year - with all Eurostar services cancelled due to a last-minute strike by Eurotunnel staff, and major disruption at Euston.

Tens of thousands of Christmas getaway journeys are thought to have been affected by the issues on Thursday.

The unexpected strike by Eurotunnel staff ended on Thursday evening after bringing international train journeys to a grinding halt, but Eurostar services remained cancelled until Friday.

Rail services at Euston resumed on Thursday afternoon, but passengers were warned to expect delays. All services from the station had earlier been suspended after what is believed to be a train fault.

The last-minute strike in France by Eurotunnel staff at operator Getlink, embroiled in a row over pay, saw all cross-Channel Eurostar services to and from St Pancras halted from midday on Thursday until the end of the day.

Services by Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, which runs vehicle-carrying trains to and from Folkestone, were also suspended.

Eurotunnel confirmed around 7pm on Thursday the strike had ended after an agreement was reached with unions.

A spokesperson said Eurostar services will resume on Friday, "with a normal timetable out of London, Paris and Brussels".

An extra six trains will run between Eurostar will run between Paris and London - two extra services on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively, to accomodate passengers who were unable to travel during the strike.

"Customers who have been affected today have received direct communication about their journey and had the option to exchange their tickets free of charge or claim a refund," said a Eurostar spokesperson on Thursday.

"Although the situation was out of Eurostar’s control, all our teams have worked to minimise the impact on our customers and provide as much support as possible. Extra staff have also been in stations to assist travellers."

LeShuttle services were due to resume "progressively" on Thursday evening.

A total of 30 Eurostar trains were cancelled on Thursday, out of London, Paris and Brussels. Photos showed huge crowds of passengers stranded at St Pancras.

Jennyfer Winslow and her 17-month-old daughter (Jennyfer Winslow)

The strike also had a knock-on effect on roads, as Kent Police temporarily shut the M20 coastbound carriageway between Junctions 8 and 9.

One woman from east London was reduced to tears after her Eurostar train to Paris was cancelled, leaving her fearing she may not be able to spend Christmas with her family.

Jennyfer Winslow, 37, from Leytonstone, was due to travel to France with her husband and 17-month-old daughter, but received an email from Eurostar as they were about to leave on Thursday saying their trip was cancelled.

“I actually cried for two hours," she told the Standard. "We are really close with my family and we don’t get to see each other often.

"My parents are missing my daughter. They were really looking forward to seeing her. It was very upsetting because, being so close to the holidays, we thought we wouldn’t be able to make it."

Other Eurostar passengers have expressed their frustration on social media platform X.

Janette Kadriu had been due to travel on Thursday evening but has also been forced to reschedule for Friday. "Everyone expecting us for Christmas, virtually impossible to book something else this close to holidays," she wrote. "Total nightmare".

Passengers at Euston Station, London, on Thursday (James Manning/PA Wire)

Another user slammed striking staff, writing: "What a vile thing to do with no notice. I'm at St Pancras, lots of folk waiting for info, some in wheel chairs, young families, babies in prams, many upset, all massively inconvenienced."

Meanwhile trains from London Euston were “severely disrupted” on Thursday after overhead wires near Hemel Hempstead were damaged.

There was also travel chaos at Heathrow airport after two dozen domestic and European flights to and from the transport hub were cancelled by British Airways due to Storm Pia.

All trains from London Euston were suspended earlier on Thursday, but Network Rail said shortly after 3pm some services were beginning to resume.

In an update around 7pm, Network Rail said: "The majority of the network is open and running, however, there are residual delays to services from London Euston following a problem with the power supply north of Watford earlier today."

British Transport Police officers watch as passengers wait at the Eurostar entrance in St Pancras International (PA)

The incident took place in the Bourne End area at around 12.15pm, and saw hundreds of passengers left stranded outside Euston Station after the gates were drawn shut to stop them from entering.

Network Rail said the incident was "possibly caused by a fault on a train", and remains under investigation.

"All lines were closed while inspections took place, including drone surveys of the lines, but trains were on the move shortly after 3.30pm," said a spokesperson.

One passenger caught up in the Euston chaos wrote on social media site X that his “daughter with disabilities and learning issues is in tears”, while another said their Christmas plans had been “ruined last minute”.

Meanwhile separately disruption from Euston was taking place on Avanti West Coast services from Euston to Manchester, when all lines were blocked on Thursday morning after a bag was caught on power lines.

James Dean, Network Rail’s West Coast South route director, said on Thursday afternoon: “I’m sorry to passengers impacted by the overhead lines coming down near Euston station and the major disruption to journeys this is causing.

"Our team of engineers are onsite and assessing the damage, but it is too early to know what has caused it. Our focus is on fixing the issue as soon as possible.

 “I’d urge people to check before they set off on their journey while we work hard to get passengers safely back on the move.”

(James Manning/PA Wire)

Network Rail said a previous issue caused by a tree falling on the railway near Newark on the East Coast Main Line, had been fixed and trains were running from King’s Cross, with delays.

Network Rail previously told passengers in a statement: “Our engineers are working to remove a bag that has been caught on the overhead power line between Stoke and Crewe.”

London Northwestern services between Stafford and Crewe were also affected.

Due to a last-minute strike by Eurotunnel staff, no Channel Tunnel crossings have taken place since midday on Thursday.

A Eurostar spokesperson said: "Due to a last-minute strike by Eurotunnel staff, no Channel Tunnel crossings have taken place since 21 December, midday.

"Unfortunately, this means 30 Eurostar trains have been cancelled out of London, Paris or Brussels until the end of the day.

"For passengers due to travel tomorrow [Friday], Eurostar will update them directly with any changes to services from 7pm [UK time].

"Customers who have been affected today have received direct communication about their journey and had the option to exchange their tickets free of charge or claim a refund.

"Eurostar is closely monitoring the situation as it evolves and is being kept informed of developments by Eurotunnel.

"Although the situation is out of Eurostar’s control, all our teams are working to minimise the impact on our customers and provide as much support as possible. Extra staff are also in the stations to assist travellers."

Getlink, the French company which operates the Channel Tunnel, said: "Today's call for strike action by representatives of Eurotunnel's French site staff unions has resulted in the complete interruption of service and the closure of our terminals in France and the UK."Meanwhile, high winds caused by Storm Pia were also affecting train services mainly in the north of the country, including areas all of Scotland, north Wales, plus parts of East Anglia, the Midlands, north west and north east of England.

A South Western train at Waterloo (South Western)

It came as South Western Railway warned of severe disruption on some of its services from Waterloo on Wednesday 27 to Friday December 29 because of landslip repairs.

The train company advised passengers to only travel if absolutely necessary on those days.

Affected services are those that run between Woking and Basingstoke.

South Western said this was because it needed to access two of the four tracks to repair a landslip that occurred in late November.

On all three days, some of the first services from London Waterloo through Woking and Basingstoke will start later each day, at around 7am.

Some stations may not be directly served from Waterloo, such as Alton or Brookwood, while others will only have a once-per-hour service.

Stuart Meek, South Western Railway’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “This is a complex repair that our colleagues at Network Rail have been working hard to complete.

“To make more progress, they will once again require access to two of the four tracks in the area which, while disruptive, is the best option available.

“As we will only have half the number of tracks available, we will need to reduce our services as we did some weeks ago. Our advice to customers is that, if their trains run between Woking and Basingstoke, they should only travel if absolutely necessary.”

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