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Eurotunnel strike latest: How long will the Channel Tunnel be disrupted for?

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Eurotunnel strike latest: How long will the Channel Tunnel be disrupted for?
Passengers gather at the Eurostar International Departures hall at St Pancras station in London on December 21, 2023, as services are disrupted due to a strike at the Eurotunnel. Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

Unions representing Channel Tunnel workers have ended the wildcat strike that caused massive travel disruption on Thursday - but how long are services likely to be disrupted and what's the situation for rebooking?


The Channel Tunnel was completely closed on Thursday afternoon and evening after a wildcat strike by unions representing French workers at Getlink, the Tunnel operator.

At 7.30pm on Thursday unions announced the strike was over - apparently after negotiating a deal with bosses over end-of year bonuses.

"The crisis Eurotunnel industrial action is coming to an end... Channel tunnel activity will resume this evening," said union delegate Franck Herent, citing negotiations with management that "bore results that satisfy us".

So when are services likely to return to normal?

The strike was by staff employed at Getlink, which operates the Channel Tunnel - which means that all traffic using the tunnel was affected - Eurostar services, as well as Le Shuttle trains which carry vehicles and freight.

Unions met with bosses at 4.30pm on Thursday, at 6pm unions said they were "waiting for the management to get back to them with a serious offer" and by 7.30pm the strike was over.

According to French MP Alexandre Holroyd, France's transport minister Clément Beaune personally intervened to help reach an agreement.


But thousands of journeys had already been disrupted.

Eurostar services between London and Paris but also London and Brussels and Amsterdam were also affected, as well as Shuttle car services.


Passengers at Gare du Nord and St Pancras stations reported a chaotic situation with little information. 

When will services resume?

Le Shuttle operators resumed services later on Thursday evening and night-time trains ran as normal.

However Eurostar had already cancelled its final services of the evening, so Eurostar resumes services on Friday. Eurostar says that it "anticipates normal service" on Friday, so people with prebooked Friday trains should travel to the station as normal.

What about rebooking?

For those whose journey has already been cancelled, rebooking options are limited by the fact that the Christmas travel period is already a very busy time.

Eurostar had already told passengers that it may not be possible to rebook them before Christmas, as many services on Friday and Saturday were booked out.

The company will add six extra services over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, in order to take people whose Thursday journey was disrupted. In total 30 services were cancelled on Thursday, so it's unlikely that everyone will be able to secure a place on the extra trains. 

Le Shuttle usually has more flexibility and can load people onto the next available crossing - although long waits are still possible.

Cross-Channel ferry services still have tickets available.

France-UK Christmas travel - what are my options?

Both UK and French schools break up for the holidays on Friday, so Friday evening and Saturday were already expected to be some of the busiest travel days of the year.

How could they do this just before Christmas?

That's kind of the point - French unions frequently call strikes for peak travel periods that cause maximum inconvenience, hoping that the additional pressure will cause bosses to cave in to their demands.

According to Getlink, "trade unions rejected a bonus of €1,000 end-of-year bonus announced by management and have called for a strike to demand it be tripled."

The six unions representing Getlink staff said they had been warning bosses for months about "the terrible deterioration in the social climate" and called on them to share the wealth. 

Getlink in July recorded "historic" operating profits of €159 million - a 218 percent increase.




In the end, an agreement was reached relatively quickly, although not before thousands of people faced disrupted Christmas travel plans. 

"We've been sitting here at Calais for 3.5 hours," said one Twitter uses named Andrew. "Totally shitty way to do industrial action by Eurotunnel staff. You can put pressure on your employer without screwing over families stuck in cars, trying to get home for Christmas without any warning."

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HT 2023/12/21 20:16
Showing once more that well organised unions are the only way to stand up to unreasonable employers. Well done!

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