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Tunnel chaos blamed on rail firm and police

PUBLISHED: 15:30 06 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:21 23 August 2010

OPERATORS of the Channel Tunnel have laid the blame for the massive problems experienced over Christmas on Eurostar and Kent Police. Eurotunnel has issued a statement to stakeholders claiming it has been unfairly criticised following the crisis that sa

OPERATORS of the Channel Tunnel have laid the blame for the massive problems experienced over Christmas on Eurostar and Kent Police.

Eurotunnel has issued a statement to stakeholders claiming it has been "unfairly criticised" following the crisis that saw five trains break down between December 18 and 19 and the service suspended.

Widespread media coverage, including an exclusive interview in the Reporter with a family of nine who endured the ordeal, detailed travellers' complaints of poor communication, lack of adequate food or water supply and inappropriate rescue vehicles.

The train breakdowns, caused by snow, resulted in the two tunnels being blocked and hundreds of passengers trapped for hours.

Eurotunnel explained that it deployed its two breakdown units, one for each tunnel, as soon as it was instructed by Eurostar and "intervened with speed and professionalism, above and beyond what is strictly required".

It also said that a further train, not equipped for travellers, was deployed to help evacuate passengers when they became panicky due to poor communication by Eurostar staff.

The statement reads: "It is apparent that the on-board Eurostar crews did not relay any useful information to their passengers. This led to concerns on board Eurostar 9057, which led to us taking the decision to evacuate the passengers immediately into the service tunnel in order to maintain safety.

"In this unprecedented emergency event, Eurotunnel sent one of its own Shuttles, which clearly is not equipped as a passenger train, to complete the essential mission of rescuing those people."

When travellers finally reached England they were forced to wait at Folkestone for a number of hours, a problem Eurotunnel blames on Kent police, stating they carried out a series of "incomprehensible and interminable checks and controls".

Following the problems Eurostar promised to launch an independent inquiry into the events to ensure improvements are made.

A Eurostar spokesperson said: "This review will focus on the causes of the disruption, contingency planning, the arrangements with Eurotunnel as well as passenger care during the disruption and suspension of service.

Kent police declined to comment on the incident until the organisations involved have all carried out reviews.

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