ABOARD THE EUROSTAR, OUTSIDE THE CHANNEL TUNNEL, England — It’s been more than eight hours since our Eurostar train departed London St. Pancras on a journey that was abruptly halted outside the Channel Tunnel amidst sparks and bangs.
It’s a journey I’ve taken numerous times, heading to POLITICO’s office in Brussels. But this one doesn’t go to plan.
Shortly before 9 a.m. local time, an electrical cable snaps and falls on the train, which had been heading to Amsterdam via Brussels. Passengers are initially phlegmatic at their predicament, but the ensuing hours quickly change that.
With toilets overflowing, people increasingly hungry and thirsty, and minimal communication from train staff, goodwill soon evaporates.
At first, passengers are told over the speakers that a rescue train is on its way. Shortly after, however, the lack of electricity kiboshes the announcement system.
After that, rare updates are provided by increasingly scarce staff. A rescue train intended to pull our motionless carriages back to another station arrives, but another problem immediately arises — some overhead wires must be moved before we can be pulled anywhere.
Hours pass, without news.
Rumors abound of people smoking and vaping, passengers having to urinate in cups, and poor air quality given the lack of air conditioning. Staff seem to have disappeared, and when they do walk past have little to no news.
Rail incident personnel arrive alongside the train but are unable to fix the problem, instead taking photographs and talking on their phones. Passengers take to X to beg Eurostar for answers.
With no official news, half-baked rumors flourish. Will we be going to Brussels on a replacement train? Or be towed to another platform and then sent back to London? Should we try to rebook later trains?
Rail workers eventually lift the hanging wires from the train as it is towed back a few hundred meters. It then comes to another halt, before eventually being moved to where it can finally be connected to an electrical supply. The power comes back on just after 4 p.m., more than seven hours after the electrical cables came crashing down.
By now, passenger camaraderie is again at high ebb: Seven hours stuck in Dover will do that to you. Jokes and suggestions on how to reach our final destinations fill the carriage, as does anger at Eurostar.
As your bedraggled reporter files this story, the latest announcement — eight and a half hours after we left St. Pancras — is that we are heading back to London.
This time, thank goodness, that seems to be true.