Easter holidaymakers and lorry drivers travelling to mainland Europe faced further delays on Monday on the chaotic cross-Channel route after a Eurotunnel Le Shuttle train broke down in the tunnel.
The breakdown came as Eurotunnel said it was experiencing more traffic than it had since 2019, at the start of the first school holidays since UK Covid travel rules were scrapped.
Cross-Channel passengers and freight have also been switching to Eurotunnel because several ferries have been out of service since the P&O Ferries sackings krisis.
Eurotunnel detected a safety problem on a freight-only train heading to Calais, which had to be repaired in the tunnel before being taken back to Folkestone, blocking one of the two tunnels.
Passenger and freight shuttles continued to run in batches of departures in each direction, reducing capacity and causing minor delays to Eurostar services. There were three-hour queues for drivers waiting to board Eurotunnel in the UK, while delays in Calais were about an hour.
Eurotunnel said it expected to have services running at full capacity by Monday afternoon.
The incident came with cross-Channel transport services already under intense pressure, following the suspension of P&O Ferries after it fired 800 crew without notice two weeks ago.
One of its ships on the Dover-Calais route, the Pride of Kent, failed a subsequent safety inspection, and services on the short crossing are not expected to restart for several days, at the earliest.
Capacity was further reduced last week when storms temporarily stopped all ferry sailings and a DFDS vessel was taken out of service after a minor incident. The firm had been carrying rebooked P&O Ferries customers.
With traffic increased by leisure passengers at the start of the Easter holidays, roads into Dover were gridlocked on Friday. Operation Brock, the emergency contraflow system introduced for Brexit to deal with queueing lorries slowed by red tape at the border, was put in place but lifted on Sunday night as traffic eased.
A Eurotunnel spokesperson said: “As a result of a technical issue with a freight shuttle overnight, Eurotunnel is currently operating a reduced service.
“We apologise to customers who may experience some delays during this incident and would like to assure everyone that we are working as fast as possible to remove the train from the tunnel and to restore normal service.
“We expect to have full services running again later in the day.”