Eurostar halts trains, thousands stranded

Passengers keeping warm with thermal foil blankets after their Eurostar train was stranded in Calais, France, yesterday. Five train services were suspended for hours, following reports of migrants thronging onboard.
Passengers keeping warm with thermal foil blankets after their Eurostar train was stranded in Calais, France, yesterday. Five train services were suspended for hours, following reports of migrants thronging onboard.PHOTO: REUTERS

CALAIS (France) • Hundreds of migrants poured onto the high-speed railway linking Paris with London near the French port of Calais, a police source said yesterday, stranding thousands of passengers aboard Eurostar trains for hours.

The migrants took to the tracks on Tuesday around Calais-Frethun station, the latest target for those trying to reach Britain, forcing French rail operator SNCF to halt services near the entrance to the Channel Tunnel.

About 3,000 to 4,000 migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa live in camps around Calais, dodging police as they try to get aboard trains and trucks heading for Britain through the tunnel, or on car ferries.

Five Eurostar high-speed trains were blocked for hours, and passengers in one were asked to listen out for any sounds of migrants climbing onto the carriage roofs. Many sat in dark, stifling trains after SNCF shut down the power supply.

Eurostar said on its Twitter feed that three of the blocked trains later continued on their route to London early yesterday, while two others returned to their departure stations in London and Paris.

A spokesman for Eurotunnel said that as security is tightened at Calais port and the Channel Tunnel entrance, the migrants are looking for new entry points such as Calais-Frethun.

The station lies about 5km inland, just outside the zone controlled by Eurotunnel.

The tunnel operator also said it would share know-how with SNCF, which is to erect 13km of security fencing along the rail network.

At the start of the year, the migrants, who are fleeing conflict and poverty in their home countries, mainly targeted trucks bound for ferries or the tunnel.

As fences there were erected, they targeted the tunnel entrance itself, before turning their sights to the railway station beyond. Earlier this week, migrants were still trying to get into trucks and even the cars of tourists queuing up to enter the ferry port.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2015, with the headline 'Eurostar halts trains, thousands stranded'. Print Edition | Subscribe