Tens of thousands of travellers who hoped to go by train between London and Continental Europe on Boxing Day have had their travel plans wrecked by the next rail strike.
Eurostar has had to cancel all 43 trains linking London with Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam scheduled for 26 December, even though none of its staff are on strike.
The firm said: “Eurostar has today been informed that the UK high-speed line will be closed to Eurostar trains on 26 December due to RMT strike action.”
The High Speed One line between London and the Channel Tunnel at Folkestone is on track where Network Rail operates the signalling. It will be closed from 6pm on 24 December to 6am on 27 December.
While exact figures are not available on passenger numbers, The Independent estimates 20,000 travellers will have been booked on the now-cancelled trains.
The cross-Channel rail firm has always run a Boxing Day service, which proves extremely popular with travellers.
Bertrand Gosselin, chief operations officer at Eurostar, said: “We know how important it is for our customers to be able to travel at this time of year, and as a business we always prioritise all services running over the festive period.
“We have left no stone unturned in our efforts to be granted access to the UK high-speed line on Boxing Day – as we have been on every other RMT strike day this year – and made it absolutely clear the impact this will have on those who were booked to travel.
“We share our customers’ frustration and disappointment and we will do all that we can to run extra services when the line is open to give passengers more flexibility.”
The RMT union said when it called the Christmas strike that its target was to scupper engineering work, not to disrupt passengers.
The general secretary, Mick Lynch, said: “Our members are determined to take further strike action in pursuit of a negotiated settlement.”
In response to the Eurostar announcement of cancellations, an RMT spokesperson said: “Eurostar has been kept running on every other day Network Rail workers have been on strike. This is a decision which Network Rail bosses are wholly responsible for.”
A spokesperson for Network Rail said: “The only reason Eurostar aren’t able to run on Boxing Day is because the RMT chose to strike on that day and cause as much Christmas misery as it could.
“On past strike days Network Rail has managed to scramble together enough contingency workers to keep the route open but we have simply run out of people.”
Passengers whose trains are cancelled can switch to alternative services, subject to availability, or claim a refund.