A rail passenger has told how he was stuck in a queue for almost seven hours at the Channel Tunnel’s terminal in Kent with no food after police discovered a suspicious vehicle.
After the vehicle was stopped at 10.30am an army bomb squad was called in to search it and a man was arrested.
A cordon was put up around the LeShuttle train terminal near Folkestone and all of its services were suspended – resulting in holidaymakers being stuck in massive queues as temperatures soared over 30C.
After several hours the cordon was lifted when the team concluded the vehicle posed no risk to public safety, Kent Police said. The arrested man was interviewed and has been released pending further enquiries.
Among those caught up in the chaos was Nick Pitts and his wife Naomi, who were due to catch a LeShuttle train to Calais today, before driving to a family wedding in Ghent, Belgium tomorrow.
The pair were stuck at the front of a queue near a checkpoint just outside the terminal and Mr Pitts said the stressful situation was made worse because they were starving as they brought no food with them.
Mr Pitts claimed LeShuttle staff offered “poor customer service” because they did not provide drivers with any food and did not initially explaining to drivers why traffic was not being allowed into terminal.
He claimed staff provided bottles of water for drivers but initially left them near the front of the checkpoint and did not inform them they were on offer, then delivered them by hand to each car queuing but only after passengers complained.
Mr Pitts said: “I am sure they have policies in place [to deal with incidents] but they had no communication today. On one of the hottest days of the year, you are waiting on the tarmac on the approach to the terminal with no communication.”
He told how the pair were left baffled about what was causing the delays as there was no information about the incident on display boards on the LeShuttle website.
Mr Pitts said: “There was no announcement saying what was going on, giving us some information. Anyone you asked said, ‘We don’t know what is happening there is a police incident going on – we don’t know’ – that is what you are told.”
Kent Police said the incident was not linked to the search for escaped terror suspect Daniel Khalife – but Mr Pitts said that staff’s lack of communication led passengers to fear he was in the area.
Mr Pitts, who works as a content director, said: “It was really worrying when you have this guy on the run – people were starting to gossip.”
He said around 2.10pm drivers were told by staff they had to leave the terminal area due to the incident.
The pair decided to book a ferry from Folkestone to Belgium after they were evacuated from the terminal, as they feared they would miss the nuptials because of the train delays.
LeShuttle has been contacted by i for comment about Mr Pitt’s criticism of the company’s staff.
The train operator released a statement at 3.50pm saying that the “incident is now over and traffic can once again access the terminal”.
Kent Police said in a statement: “At around 10.30am on Friday 8 September 2023 a suspicious vehicle was stopped at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Cheriton. Explosives experts from the British Army attended the scene and a cordon was put in place.
“A thorough examination was carried out and the vehicle has since been deemed to not pose a risk to public safety. The cordon has been lifted as a result.
“A man who was detained in connection with the incident has been interviewed and released pending further enquiries.”