Strike Halts Eurostar Channel Tunnel Service Between London and Europe


Rail traffic under the English Channel was gradually returning to normal on Thursday after the end of an unexpected walkout by railway workers that had blocked the Channel Tunnel, stranding passengers and causing several hours of travel chaos just days before Christmas.

Clément Beaune, France’s transportation minister, announced at 7:30 p.m. in Paris that the Channel Tunnel closure had been lifted. Mr. Beaune had previously called the blockage “unacceptable.”

“Traffic can resume,” Mr. Beaune said on social media. “I salute the spirit of responsibility of all those involved.”

Eurostar, the high-speed passenger train line that runs under the English Channel, said that traffic would resume on Friday “with a normal timetable out of London, Paris and Brussels.”

Eurostar also said in a statement that it would run two extra trains between Paris and London on each of Friday, Saturday and Sunday “to help support our customers who could not travel because of the Eurotunnel strike.”

The company had been forced to cancel 30 trains scheduled to travel out of Paris, London and Brussels starting early Thursday afternoon because of a “last minute” strike at Eurotunnel, the company that operates the rail link between France and Britain. Thousands of passengers were affected by the walkout, including when four trains were interrupted mid-journey and had to return to their starting points.

John Keefe, chief corporate and public affairs officer for Getlink, the company that owns Eurotunnel, said on Thursday evening that Eurotunnel management and union representatives had reached an agreement to end the strike.

He said the deal would allow LeShuttle, the train service that carries cars and trucks through the tunnel, to resume progressively on Thursday evening.

“Eurotunnel welcomes this agreement and reiterates its apologies to all LeShuttle customers as well as Eurostar passengers and rail freight operators whose traffic has been impacted by this strike,” Mr. Keefe said.

Six unions representing French railway workers at Eurotunnel had said that the purpose of the walkout was a redistribution of the company’s recent revenue that was more favorable to workers.

“For several months now, all the trade unions have been warning senior management of the terrible deterioration in the social climate,” the unions said in a joint statement on Thursday. “This strong turnout comes as no surprise.”

The Eurostar whisks passengers between Paris and London in about two hours and 15 minutes. It also runs between London, Brussels and Amsterdam, though the company said last month that its direct train service from Amsterdam to London would be suspended for six months next year.

Eurostar said that customers affected by the cancellations on Thursday would receive information about how they could exchange their tickets without charge or claim a refund.