Hundreds evacuated in underwater train tunnel between U.K. and France

Hundreds evacuated in underwater train tunnel between U.K. and France

A photo posted to Twitter by passenger Michael Harrison shows people walking through the service tunnel of the Eurotunnel, after their drive-on “Eurotunnel Le Shuttle” train was left stranded due to a technical issue as it made its way from England to France, August 23, 2022.

Michael Harrison/Twitter

London — Hundreds of passengers were evacuated from a Eurotunnel train under the channel between Britain and France after a technical problem, its operators said on Tuesday. Getlink, which runs the rail link between Coquelles in northern France and Folkestone in southeast England, said some 400 people had to abandon their vehicles in the train on Tuesday.

An alarm on board forced crowds of people to leave the train for the adjoining concrete service tunnel, which is normally used by maintenance workers.

One passenger, Sarah Fellows, 37, called the experience “terrifying.”

“There was a woman crying in the tunnel, another woman having a panic attack who was travelling alone,” she said.

Another traveller, Michael Kent, said passengers spent several hours in the train before it was evacuated as staff tried to solve the problem.

Passenger Michael Harrison tweeted photos of the entire ordeal, showing passengers waiting for hours inside the cavernous train and then walking through the service tunnel before finally being taken by bus back to the terminal.

The passengers were eventually transferred to a replacement train, but spent almost five hours in the undersea tunnel.

The incident affected a train leaving Calais at 3:50 pm (10:50 Eastern) on Tuesday. Later trains from France were delayed by up to six hours.

John Keefe, from operators Getlink, said passengers were taken to Folkestone while the original shuttle was brought out and they rejoined their vehicles.

“Operations like this do take time, but they are for the safety of everyone and must be conducted carefully,” he told AFP.

By 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday, “everyone who was caught up in the incident had been carried across, diversions removed, and we are now back to normal services,” he added.

The Channel Tunnel, or “Chunnel” as it’s often known, opened in 1994 and is composed of two single-track tunnels and a service tunnel, each 31 miles long. The undersea section spans about 24 miles and is the longest in the world.

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Since opening, it has carried more than 80 million vehicles on shuttle trains that are nearly 875 yards long.

Last month, Eurotunnel reduced the number of trains through the Channel Tunnel due to the effects of nationwide rail strikes in Britain, although its staff did not join the protest.