Businessman left stranded in Paris after tunnel fire

AN Eaton Socon businessman, who was left stranded in Paris because of the Channel Tunnel fire, has criticised Eurostar for leaving its passengers to fend for themselves. Peter Duddridge, of Duloe Road, was among the thousands of people unable to travel

AN Eaton Socon businessman, who was left "stranded" in Paris because of the Channel Tunnel fire, has criticised Eurostar for leaving its passengers to fend for themselves.

Peter Duddridge, of Duloe Road, was among the thousands of people unable to travel on Eurostar last Thursday (September 11) after a fire broke out in the north tunnel.

The 16-hour blaze started on a Folkestone to Calais train around seven miles from France forcing some lorry drivers to smash windows to escape the flames.

Mr Duddridge, 41, who was travelling on a train from Paris to Calais that had to be turned back, described the situation as "a complete nightmare".

He said: "About an hour after leaving Paris the train stopped and passengers were told there was a technical fault.

"We were then told there was a problem in the tunnel and we would have to go back to Paris. People were scared - there was one 70-year-old woman who had been to a funeral and was travelling on Eurostar for the first time."

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Services through the tunnel were suspended, leaving 45,000 passengers unable to travel on the Thursday and Friday.

Mr Duddridge, who works for Olympus, said he was told by Eurostar that staff would get him a hotel and the firm would pick up the bill.

However, the father-of-three said back in Paris it was chaos.

"When I asked a member of staff to find me a hotel they laughed at me and said there are thousands of people trying to get one and I would have to sort one out myself.

"They literally threw everyone out on to the streets and said find your own way.

"Understandably people were upset about being dumped in Paris. It was panic and chaos. If it had been something on a larger scale, it would have been complete meltdown."

He booked into a hotel in the hope that the tunnel would open the next day. When it did not he tried to book a ferry or a plane home to be with his wife on their wedding anniversary, but they were full. He finally got a flight to Luton on Saturday with a one-way ticket costing 129 Euros.

He said: "I'm a frequent traveller to Paris and had a company credit card and an overnight bag so I was one of the lucky ones. For mothers with children or the elderly it must have been horrible and they would have been left hundreds of pounds out of pocket."

Mr Duddridge said he was left fuming after finding out Eurostar was refusing to pay for the hotel.

"They are refunding the £79 for the return Eurostar journey but that is the very least you would expect. I've spent nearly 600 Euros on accommodation, food, flight and taxi fares and if I wasn't on business that would have had to have come out of my own pocket. I'm just appalled by the lack of customer service."

A spokesman for Eurostar said: "We are refunding return journey tickets but we are not refunding the costs of hotels. We are asking people to go through their travel insurance for any claims.

"It was clearly a difficult situation and I think our staff gave as much information as possible to passengers."

A limited Eurostar service restarted on Monday and will operate until September 30.

Passengers are advised to only make essential journeys.

CAPTION: APPALLED: Peter Duddridge says more should have been done to help Eurostar passengers left stranded in Paris after the Channel Tunnel fire. He is pictured here on holiday with his wife Judy in Venice.

Picture: SUPPLIED.

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