Train services in Channel Tunnel running again after shutdown due to fire

A high speed Eurostar train seen at the Paris Gare du Nord train station. Train services through the Channel Tunnel are in operation again, after a fire shut down the tunnel for several hours on Saturday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 
A high speed Eurostar train seen at the Paris Gare du Nord train station. Train services through the Channel Tunnel are in operation again, after a fire shut down the tunnel for several hours on Saturday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

LILLE, France (AFP/Reuters) - Trains through the Channel Tunnel between France and Britain resumed early on Sunday, a day after a lorry fire forced its closure and the suspension of rail services, operator Eurotunnel said.“Our passenger service is currently operating to schedule with up to one departure per hour,” the company said on its website.Services resumed from Britain at 2.45am local time and from France at 4.30am (3.30am GMT), it said on Twitter.

Eurostar, which offers passenger rail services between London, Brussels and Paris, said schedules would return to normal on Sunday.

The Channel Tunnel operator evacuated a shuttle train from Calais to Dover and closed the undersea crossing on Saturday due to smoke from a lorry.

Smoke detectors were set off by a "smouldering load" in the trailer of a lorry, it said on Saturday.

It added that the incident had not caused significant damage and train services would resume on Sunday.

The fire on Saturday forced all Eurostar trains already en route to turn back to their stations of origin, while 42 people were evacuated from the truck shuttle using the service tunnel.

Police in southern England have said the fire was “at the French end of the tunnel and is being dealt with by the French authorities”.

“There are no reported injuries,” the police added.The fire sparked travel chaos in Britain and France with long queues for refunds reported at London’s St Pancras station.In November 2012, a fire on a freight train halted traffic in the tunnel for two hours.Four years earlier, a lorry fire caused major damage in the tunnel, affecting 650m of the structure and gumming up traffic for 30 hours.Some 400 trains and 1.5 million lorries pass through the tunnel every day.

Although the incident did not cause major damage, “there was a lot of smoke”, said Mr Denis Gaudin, an official from the French northern city of Calais.Initial fears, said Eurostar’s chief executive Nicolas Petrovic, had been that the disruption would keep one of the two tunnels out of action on Sunday, causing continued delays. He said that “several thousand” customers had to rearrange travel plans.But Eurotunnel spokesman said inspections showed “it doesn’t look like anything significant at this stage. We hope we will be running a full service” on Sunday.For many passengers on the popular line, the chaos on Saturday meant either an enforced stay in France or Britain – or doing things the old fashioned way and going by sea.“The Eurostar people told us to watch the Internet for updates. We’re going to find a hotel close to the station so we’re covered for any eventuality,” said one stranded passenger in Lille, on the French side.Mr John Taehan, a tennis coach with eight young players, had given up and was seeking an alternative route.“They told us to take a train to Calais and then the ferry and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said, slinging his rackets over his shoulder.A third passenger, 52-year-old Marie from Lille, complained about a lack of information.“Last summer, during the SNCF (French rail company) train strikes, we got text messages when trains were cancelled,” she said.“Here, we got nothing. We just got here and we were told that the train was cancelled.”