Eurotunnel passengers hit by delays of up to five hours

Updated: 

Britons hoping to escape to the continent for the bank holiday weekend were met with delays of up to five hours on the Channel Tunnel.

Passengers travelling on the Eurotunnel service experienced lengthy delays during peak hours when a freight train broke down inside a tunnel early on Saturday morning.

The rail link was beset by further problems caused by a power outage at the UK terminal in the afternoon, requiring engineers to carry out an inspection before the route could be declared safe.

Meanwhile, IT problems affecting passenger check-in and security systems caused some delays at Gatwick Airport on Saturday morning.

The delays came as holidaymakers attempted to get away for the long weekend, with some complaining of being stuck on a train for several hours and others deciding not to travel.

Among them was Craig Dibble, from London, who had planned a day trip to Calais with his wife Liz Anderson and their children Lowri, 10, and Alice, eight.

The 43-year-old said the family were booked on a 12.50pm departure and believed his train had not left until 6.50pm.

"As we were about to leave the Eurotunnel sent out a text message saying they were experiencing delays but check-in as normal," the IT engineer said.

"When we got there the car park was rammed and people were parking on the grass. Fortunately it was sunny so people were having picnics.

"The signs changed to say five-hour delays and there was no indication of what was going on - we only had any idea by looking it up on Twitter.

"There were people sitting on the F train for a few hours and we were on J so we did the maths and thought 'this is ridiculous'. We wouldn't have arrived in Calais until after 7pm so we left. 

"The children were a bit disappointed they missed out."

A Eurotunnel spokesman said: "We had a problem with a freight train that got stuck in the tunnel and that caused some delays initially between 6am and 8am, which was the time when we get a lot of traffic coming in for the weekend.

"Then in the middle of the afternoon we had a reported delay of four to five hours, which is a worst estimate."

It is unclear what caused the electrical fault in the UK terminal, he added.

"We did not have long queues on the motorway and traffic was not that high - people were waiting on the terminal," the spokesman said.

"We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience."

People vented their frustration at the Eurotunnel delays on Twitter.

Kate Sharp said: "Trapped inside your train. Been waiting 5 hours at Eurotunnel Folkstone. Awful service! When will we be moving?"

Ryan Colley said: "Been waiting 3 hours and still saying 5 hours delay!"

A spokeswoman for Gatwick Airport said there were minor knock-on delays affecting flights into Saturday evening after staff had to revert to manual check-in procedures.

"Very early this morning there were IT issues affecting passenger systems. By mid-morning passengers were moving through," she said.

"It affected flights, particularly in south terminal where they had to check-in manually, which slows things down."