French state rail company SNCF has offered its “sincerest apologies” to passengers who were stuck on its train overnight due to a “chain of incidents”.
More than a thousand passengers were expecting to arrive in Paris from Hendaye at 4:20pm on Sunday, but ended up enduring a night of “hell”, according to one.
“Really, it was hell. That’s the state of mind,” Christelle told AFP.
Another passenger, Elise Michel, added: “With the suitcases, with the children, we stayed in the dark in the train without air conditioning, without anything to eat or drink, it was really deplorable”.
Florian Michel said “we were informed of absolutely nothing, we felt that the news was a bit muddy, but everyone was patient and rather very nice.”
Their double TGV train was first held up in Morcenx, and then Ychoux, after an electrical incident.
Eventually they arrived in Paris late on Monday morning.
That was perhaps just the most extreme example of disruption to train services coming into Paris on Sunday, as people made their way home on the last weekend of the holidays.
Some 400 passengers, among the last to have been able to reach the capital, arrived shortly after 6pm at the Montparnasse station.
“At one point, the train stopped in the middle of the track, we were all very afraid”, said an AFP journalist who was on the train.
“I never thought I’d be so happy to be back in Paris,” exclaimed a pensioner.
Two other trains, besides the one stuck overnight, were scheduled for arrival at Paris-Montparnasse at 10pm, but had to turn back to Hendaye where the trains terminated.
Coaches then transported the passengers to Bordeaux, where they could catch a TGV in the afternoon.
Chain of incidents
The SNCF has launched an internal investigation into what happened. Acknowledging “extraordinary delays”, SNCF CEO Christophe Fanichet offered passengers “the SNCF’s sincerest apologies” on his Twitter account.
He indicated that he would go”tonight to the New-Aquitaine region to understand with the teams what happened and to learn all the lessons”.
“This is an exceptional event that has created a chain of incidents that led, at one point, no follow-up, the interruption of traffic,” said Jean-Luc Gary, territorial director of the SNCF New Aquitaine network.
According to him, a faulty overhead line has been identified, which has “damaged the line in several places”.
“Over almost the whole of Southern Aquitaine, events have occurred again and are undoubtedly linked to the same cause. What we don’t know at this time is who did what, who created what,” he added.
The circulation of trains should resume on Tuesday, according to the SNCF, which said that passengers on the three trains would be compensated up to 300% and “all related costs, hotels and cabs” reimbursed.