English Channel trains cancelled amid Calais chaos

AP News
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Posted: Jun 23, 2015 3:51 PM
English Channel trains cancelled amid Calais chaos

CALAIS, France (AP) — All trains and many ferry services between Britain and France were cut off Tuesday by striking port workers, stranding hundreds of trucks and thousands of passengers on both sides of the English Channel.

Adding to the chaos, illegal migrants who are camped by the thousands in the port city of Calais were seen trying to stowaway on vehicles stuck in traffic jams.

Rail company Eurostar said Tuesday it would cancel all passenger trains for the rest of the day through the English Channel tunnel, after the striking ferry workers swarmed the train line setting tires alight. About 50 strikers made it onto the tracks by the freight terminal building in Calais, which forced tunnel operator Eurotunnel to close the tunnel in both directions.

Eurostar said all trains are returning to their cities of departure and none were stuck in the tunnel. The company told passengers travel should resume Wednesday but warned them to arrive extra early.

The striking workers also blocked the port in Calais, a major departure point for ferries crossing the channel, as part of their protest against feared job cuts.

The strike started before dawn, causing chaos in Calais as truckers diverted to the train line and got snarled in traffic, at which point migrants hoping to reach England swarmed the vehicles, trying to sneak on board.

Video filmed near the entrance to the Eurotunnel showed migrants racing to catch a slow-moving truck. Thousands of migrants from Eritrea, Sudan, Afghanistan and beyond are camped in camps around Calais, hoping to sneak into England, where they believe they are more likely to find jobs and prosperity.

The growing number of migrants in Europe has prompted France to announce thousands of more places in centers for asylum seekers and emergency beds in Calais, as well as a police task force to help dismantle smugglers' networks.

Britain's foreign office updated its travel advice, warning travelers around Calais to keep car doors locked against illegal migrants trying to reach Britain.

Eurostar carries about 10 million passengers a year between Britain, France and Belgium through the channel tunnel.

On Tuesday, hundreds of frustrated travelers gathered at Paris' Gare du Nord train station, unable to cross the channel. Some searched for last-minute lodging in the French capital or struggled to rearrange travel plans.

"So we have to stay another night in Paris I guess and cancel our plans in London tomorrow. So not very fun, but we'll figure it out," said Nevada visitor Debbie Florence.

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Hinnant reported from Paris. Jill Lawless in London also contributed to this report.