Hundreds of travellers spent the night stranded and hungry on a French TGV train after an electrical failure saw it reach its destination almost a day late.
The train left Hendaye on the Spanish border bound for Paris, carrying nearly 1,000 passengers despite a spike of Covid-19 infections in France, and had been due to arrive on Sunday afternoon after a five-hour journey.
But it halted in the south-west Landes region due to a succession of electrical problems on the line, national operator SNCF said.
Passengers were then transferred to another train to take them on towards Bordeaux just before dawn. The exhausted passengers eventually pulled into Paris at around midday on Monday.
An AFP correspondent on the train said the on-board cafe announced to passengers on Sunday evening that it had run out of food and they should not come looking, an announcement that had to be repeated.
Train managers also issued a call for any medics on board after at least one passenger fainted. Food was provided only just before the train change in the early morning although bottles of water were offered.
Additional face masks – which are obligatory on trains in France during the pandemic – were handed out later in the morning, the correspondent said.
“It’s like we’re in a comedy sketch,” said one father trying to occupy his young son.
Passengers on two other trains heading out of Hendaye on Sunday bound for Paris were also affected, SNCF said. Those services returned to Hendaye where the passengers spent the night and were eventually driven by bus to Bordeaux to connect to Paris.
Normal operations were expected to resume on Tuesday.
SNCF promised to refund triple the cost of the original ticket, and pledged a full investigation into the cause of the problem.
“This is an exceptional event which created a chain of incidents which resulted … in the interruption of traffic”, said, Jean-Luc Gary, SNCF network director in south-west France. “Events repeated themselves and are undoubtedly linked to the same cause. What we do not know at this time is what caused what.”