Heavy snow cut a power line in northern France, causing delays to cross-Channel Eurostar trains of of up to eight hours and forcing the cancellation of four services on Tuesday.
High-speed Thalys and TGV services from Paris to the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany were cancelled on Monday, affecting around 100 trains and delaying around 40,000 passengers by several hours.
The weather also left around 140,000 homes in northern France without electricity, and forced the closure of Lille-Lesquin airport.
“Two days to go skiing is a little long,” said Michelle Dupont, 45, who spent the night with her husband in a heated train at the Gare du Nord.
They left Calais in northern France on Monday afternoon, expecting to take a night train to the Alps the same day, but the normally short journey ended up taking over eight hours.
“When we arrived they put us in a train to sleep and gave us blankets and some food,” she said.
Passengers had to leave their trains at 5:30 am on Tuesday so they could be cleaned.
“Two hundred people spent the night in the warmth,” the station’s spokesman, Loic Leuliette, told AFP. He said there had been “an accumulation of different incidents in different places. It was unprecedented.”
Some passengers with young children were put up in hotels, he said.
Eurostar passengers who arrived in Paris from London with an eight-hour delay also spent the night in carriages.
“We left London at 5:30 pm, an hour late. We finally arrived at 2:30 am, after several stops en route, particularly in the tunnel, because the tracks were overloaded,” said Yannick Mougas, 24.
“We had nothing to eat in the Eurostar,” said his friend, Charlotte Buvry, 25. “And we didn’t get anything here, neither blankets nor food.”
Paris-based consultant Kelvin Frisquet, 40, said his Eurostar arrived in Paris from London at 2:00 am rather than 9:17 pm.
“We took a taxi with some Americans who had flown in from Atlanta (in the southern US), they took less time to travel from Atlanta to London than to do London-Paris!” he said.
Eurostar said it was “very sorry” for the disruption and offered passengers with tickets for cancelled trains the chance to exchange them for another day.
The disruption threatened to hit Paris Fashion Week with leading industry figures taking to microblogging website Twitter to highlight their travel difficulties.
British model Laura Bailey tweeted from London on Monday: “Nowhere near boarding and just got caught up in a fight..Chaos.Bon chance!”
Fellow model Poppy Delevingne described herself as “deliriously tired” after sitting on the track for four hours while designer Henry Holland declared it a “Eurostar DISASTER”.
A Eurostar spokeswoman told AFP on Tuesday: “The power’s repaired and restored and everything’s running fine.”
“No one was stuck overnight. Nobody got stranded. But there were some trains that were very severely delayed because of the sheer congestion on the lines.
National railways operator SNCF said that all train services in northern France were back to normal on Tuesday morning.