Passengers have had their New Year’s Eve plans thrown into disarray after hundreds of trains were cancelled across the country – as Eurostar customers faced further travel chaos.
Flooding and staff shortages led to train services being scrapped or delayed, with warnings the disruption could get worse due to more severe weather.
It came as thousands of Eurostar customers – whose trains had been cancelled on Saturday due to tunnel flooding – battled to get a seat after services resumed on Sunday morning.
Although both tunnels were operational again, the travel chaos spilled over, with up to 36,000 backlogged customers but no extra services running.
As the first Eurostar train left London St Pancras International shortly after 8am bound for Paris, some passengers were queuing at the station to try and book tickets.
Maes Bert and Lievens Nele, both 45, were in a large queue for tickets, hoping to get spaces on a train home to Brussels on Sunday so they can enjoy the New Year countdown with their two daughters after their train on Saturday was cancelled.
Ms Bert said: “Our tickets was cancelled yesterday so if you want a new ticket you have to queue here and hope you get one, and I hope we are getting home today, but it’s not sure there are tickets, so we have to wait and wait and wait, but it’s not going further, it takes a long time.”
He said they had been queuing for about half an hour, adding: “Yesterday you can (re-)book your tickets but all was booked for today, but now they said there are coming more places for a train, so now we hope there is a place for two persons, and otherwise it’s tomorrow, but then we are not home for the holidays. Our two children are home.”
French national Emilio Fernandez, 22, also returned to the station on Sunday with his parents, sister and four-year-old nephew Amani.
He said: “We were supposed to leave late (on Saturday) but it was cancelled in the afternoon. We were very worried because first it’s important to come back to our country to celebrate New Year’s Eve there, so we are very worried still because we are not sure that we will be able to leave.”
Meanwhile, across the domestic network, Northern Trains issued a Do Not Travel notice for 31 December on links from Manchester Victoria to Chester and Stalybridge, and from Manchester Piccadilly to Chester via Altrincham.
Passengers were also warned no trains will run on routes connecting Preston with Colne, Bolton with Clitheroe and Lancaster with Morecambe on the last day of the year.
The rail firm told passengers: “We will be operating a reduced service across the northwest due to train crew unavailability.”
Northern Trains staff who are based west of the Pennines do not have Sunday included in their working week, and so services on New Year’s Eve – as on any other Sunday – rely upon overtime.
Elsewhere, cancellations on long-distance and local trains were rife. LNER, which connects London King’s Cross with Yorkshire, northeast England and Scotland, has cancelled or curtailed more than 20 intercity trains on New Year’s Eve.
On the Thameslink line through central London, connecting Bedford and Luton with Gatwick and Brighton, most trains were cancelled due to staff shortage.
The usual overnight services will not run at all in the early hours of New Year’s day.
The Met Office has warned there could be further disruption caused by wind and rain sweeping across the UK.
Wind warnings are in place until midnight on Sunday, with some delays to road, rail, air and ferry transport possible, the forecaster said.
A yellow rain warning has been issued for an area of the North West which includes Manchester, Blackburn, Burnley and Blackpool from 6pm on Sunday until 6am on Monday, with 30-40mm possible locally.
The highest recorded wind gusts so far on Sunday were 74mph on the Isle of Wight, 64mph at Mumbles near Swansea, and 62mph on the Isles of Scilly.