PARIS – Hundreds of Eurostar train passengers trying to travel under the English Channel were stranded in France and Britain after migrants climbed on tracks overnight in the port city of Calais, officials said Wednesday.
The problems overnight are the latest in a summer wracked by travel disruptions and diplomatic tensions around Calais, where thousands of migrants are camped in hopes of sneaking through the tunnel or on ferries to Britain.
Two trains were sent back to their original stations, one train was blocked at Calais and three other trains were delayed because of individuals trespassing on the rails near Calais, Eurostar said in a statement.
Trains resumed normal traffic Wednesday.
A regional official said migrants were spotted on tracks around the Calais-Frethun train station, prompting security concerns. The official was not authorized to be publicly named.
Eurostar operates passenger trains between London and Paris and London and Brussels, which pass through Calais.
Eurotunnel, which operates the Channel Tunnel and freight trains that carry trucks and other vehicles under the channel, said the tunnel itself wasn’t blocked. Spokeswoman Anne-Laure Descleves said the track trespassing occurred outside the rail network that its trains use and therefore they weren’t affected.
Exhausted passengers arriving at London’s St. Pancras train station Wednesday complained about being left on the train for hours with no food, in darkness and high temperatures after the power was cut.
“People were trying to climb on the train. They were searching for two hours because they said there were people on the roof,” said George Golesack, from east London.
Bridget Roussel of Greenwich said: “Just before we got to the tunnel it was chaos. The lights went off and the air conditioning went off, it was so hot.”
Eurotunnel said in a statement that it has been increasing security measures in recent weeks, clearing away brush so migrants can’t hide and building more and higher fences to keep migrants from taking dangerous illegal trips through the tunnel, and working with the French national rail authority SNCF to protect its tracks that lead toward the tunnel.
Greg Katz in London contributed to this report.