Passengers' New Year's Eve plans have been thrown into disarray after hundreds of trains were canceled across the country, and the Eurostar entered chaos for a second day.
Floods and staff shortages have led to train services being canceled or delayed, with warnings that disruption could be exacerbated by bad weather.
It came as tens of thousands of Eurostar customers – whose trains were canceled on Saturday due to tunnel flooding – faced further chaos as the company was unable to provide any additional services, despite trains resuming on Sunday morning.
Although both tunnels are back up and running, travel chaos continues, with up to 36,000 backlogged customers vying for a seat on one of the Sunday trains, many of which are already sold out.
When the first Eurostar train left St Pancras International Airport in London shortly after 8am for Paris, some passengers were queuing at the station to try to book tickets.
Mace Bert and Levins Neely, both 45, were standing in a huge queue for tickets, hoping to get places on a train back to Brussels on Sunday so they could enjoy the New Year's countdown with their two daughters after their train on Saturday was cancelled.
“Our tickets were canceled yesterday, so if you want a new ticket, you'll have to wait here and I hope you get one, and I hope we go home today, but I'm not sure there are tickets, so we'll have to wait,” Ms Burt said. And he waits and waits, but it doesn't go any further, it takes a long time.
He said they had been queuing for about half an hour, adding: “Yesterday you could (re)book your tickets but everything was booked for today, but now they said there are more places coming for the train, so now we hope there will be room for two, otherwise “It's tomorrow, but we're not home for the holidays. Our kids are home.”
French citizen 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 canceled in the afternoon. We were very worried because firstly it is important that we return to our country to celebrate New Year's Eve there, so we are still very worried because we are not sure that we will be able to leave.
Another family who traveled to Brussels on a surprise trip for their Canadian relative said they were “left in limbo” and stranded in the city due to flooding that disrupted the Eurostar train.
Luke Gibbs, 32, from Kenley, south London, traveled with his wife Kayla, his cousin Liam Eaton and his sister-in-law Priya Melanson, from Canada, and intends to arrive in London in time for New Year's Eve celebrations on Sunday.
Mr Gibbs, a business development manager, paid £600 for a New Year's Eve event at London Bridge, a non-refundable sum and now he cannot attend after his train from Brussels to St Pancras was cancelled. He described communication with Eurostar as “horrible”.
“I think the way [Eurostar] “It's absolutely horrendous to deal with in terms of not trying to say 'this is how you rebook, we'll help you cover the expenses,'” Mr Gibbs said.
“They just said: ‘Unfortunately, it's been cancelled, we're sorry, go ahead with it’, which is really shocking.”
Meanwhile, across the local network, Northern Trains issued a no-travel notice dated 31 December on links from Manchester Victoria to Chester and Stalybridge, and from Manchester Piccadilly to Chester via Altrincham.
Passengers have also been warned that no trains will run on the routes linking Preston with Colne, Bolton with Clitheroe and Lancaster with Morecambe on the last day of the year.
The commuter rail company said: “We will be running a reduced service across the North West due to unavailability of train staff.”
Northern Trains staff based in the western Pennines do not include a Sunday in their working week, so services on New Year's Eve – as on any other Sunday – depend on overtime.
Elsewhere, cancellations of long-distance and local trains were widespread. The LNER, which links London King's Cross with Yorkshire, north-east England and Scotland, canceled or reduced more than 20 intercity trains on New Year's Eve.
On the Thameslink line through central London, linking Bedford and Luton to Gatwick and Brighton, most trains have been canceled due to staff shortages.
Regular night services will not be running at all in the early hours of New Year's Day.
The Met Office warned of the possibility of further disruption caused by wind and rain sweeping across the UK.
Meteorologists said wind warnings were in effect until midnight on Sunday, with the possibility of some delays to road, rail, air and ferry transport.
A yellow rain warning has been issued for an area in the north-west including Manchester, Blackburn, Burnley and Blackpool from 6pm on Sunday until 6am on Monday, with 30-40mm of rainfall possible locally.
The highest wind gusts recorded so far on Sunday were 74mph on the Isle of Wight, 64mph in the Mumbles near Swansea, and 62mph on the Scilly Isles.
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