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Passengers livid as Eurostar woes continue

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Passengers angry as train services between England and France canceled for third day
  • Thousands stranded in England and France after services under English Channel suspended since breakdowns Friday
  • Company hopes to resume two-thirds service Tuesday
  • Work under way to "enhance snow screens, snow shields in power cars"

London, England (CNN) -- Passengers on Monday vented their fury at Eurostar management as train services between England and France were canceled for a third day, leaving thousands stranded.

The cross-Channel operator said a partial train service would resume Tuesday but that was little comfort to many.

"It's shameful, they gave you 36,000 incorrect pieces of information to get us to leave," one passenger named Catherine told Agence France-Presse.

"Each time you speak to someone from Eurostar, they tell you something different."

Catherine was one of roughly 75,000 passengers stranded on either side of the English Channel on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year.

Video: Frustrated Eurostar customers
Video: Hope for Eurostar passengers
Video: Rail travel canceled
Video: Travel nightmare in Channel Tunnel

"We have to do everything ourselves, we have to pay for everything and hope we will be reimbursed, but some could not get the money together," 27-year-old Deborah told AFP.

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Government officials in both France and the United Kingdom also criticized Eurostar. British transport minister Sadiq Khan called the experience terrible for thousands of passengers.

"I am angry that passengers have still not been told what is going on and I have told Eurostar this morning that they must tell the public immediately what their plans are," Khan said.

"This has been a terrible experience for thousands of passengers, both those stranded on the trains and at the stations."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called the disruptions "unacceptable."

There was some good news though for stranded passengers, as Eurostar said they would resume a partial service Tuesday.

"We're planning on running at two-thirds our normal service tomorrow and we'll take it from there," a Eurostar spokesman told CNN.

Eurostar runs the high-speed rail service directly linking London to Paris and Brussels via the Channel Tunnel.

A later statement from Eurostar said tests on winter weather devices on trains had been successful and that if further trials went well Monday the operator hoped to have 26,000 seats available.

However, Nicolas Petrovic, Eurostar chief operation officer said a full service would not resume until after Christmas, according to AFP.

It's shameful, they gave you 36,000 incorrect pieces of information to get us to leave.
--Eurostar passenger Catherine
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Eurostar rail services remained suspended for a third day on Monday as the operator worked to fix a fault that caused a series of breakdowns blamed on winter weather.

Following a series of test runs on Sunday, the company said work was under way to "enhance the snow screens and snow shields in the power cars of the trains."

"We now understand the cause of the disruption over the weekend and have identified the modifications that are required. As we suspected, the acute weather conditions in northern France have caused the disruption," Eurostar said.

"We sincerely regret having to take this decision and we understand how frustrated and disappointed travelers will be, particularly those who have been waiting to travel for the last two days," Eurostar said.

Five trains with about 2,000 passengers stopped running Friday night inside the tunnel. A sixth train broke down Saturday in Kent, southern England, with about 700 people aboard.

"We were prisoners in this train for like 18 hours," one passenger told CNN.

The trains that broke down in the tunnel malfunctioned because the air inside was warmer than that outside the tunnel entrance in France, Eurostar spokeswoman Amelle Mouhaddib said.

"It's a bit like taking a bottle of beer out of the fridge into a warm room -- within minutes it's covered in condensation," said Eurostar CEO Richard Brown. "We think that was the principle cause of the electrical failures on the trains."

Brown called the number of breakdowns "completely unprecedented."

Passengers affected by the breakdowns are being offered a full refund, another return ticket and £150 in compensation. The company is not taking any new bookings until after Christmas.

The Channel Tunnel is two tunnels separated by a third and smaller service tunnel, so the trains that remained stuck inside did not mean the entire tunnel was blocked. It is 50.5 kilometers (31.4 miles) long, 38 kilometers (23 miles) of which are underwater.

CNN's Paula Newton, Melissa Gray and Phil Han contributed to this report.