Eurostar is on the wrong track – again

* Update 27/10. Eurostar have now been in touch to discuss compensation. Anyone else resolved this issue? Please post your update below.

* Update: Tues, 25/10. It’s one week on now from the great Eurostar PR disaster. In the aftermath, I was promised an official response to this blog from Eurostar. I was also told that customer relations would be in touch to discuss.

But so far: nothing. Is this yet another example of Eurostar handling the situation badly? Has anyone else had a follow up from the Eurostar team?

Or does Eurostar simply not give a %^& about its customers?

Please post your comments below.

Original post: 18/10/11

It happens to us all. The travel-chaos nightmare when flights/trains/boats are delayed or cancelled, leaving you feeling drained, bewildered and frustrated.

It happened to me last night aboard the 17.04 Eurostar from London St Pancras to Brussels Midi. It was hell.

Major delays

Short version: a ten-minute delay just outside the tunnel past Ashford, Kent, turned into a three-hour delay.

During this time, in coach eight we were offered water and biscuits.

We were eventually sent back to London, arriving around 11pm – some six hours after setting out.

The queue for Eurostar customer services to request hotels and taxis and looked like this:

Radio silence

The most frustrating thing about this experience – apart from the disruption and loosing work due to blown meetings – was the lack of information from Eurostar staff.

Passengers became increasingly irate as we were kept in the dark about the situation.

Should we cancel meetings? Arrange new connections? Contact loved ones? Nobody would tell us anything.

I turned to Twitter for information (check my increasingly irate feed from last night).

We soon established that it was a suicide on the line, all trains were cancelled and a Burger King in Kings Cross was far more likely than moules frites in Ghent that night.

But where was the official source? Eurostar communications only posted info on the website at 20.00 UK time; the incident was reported to have occurred at 17.50pm.

And where is the emergency action plan? After all, this isn’t the first time there’s been a major incident on the high-speed line to Europe. Remember last Christmas?

Have Eurostar learnt nothing from all this? Seems not.

Lucky me

I was one of the lucky ones. I was traveling on tickets booked through Railbookers and, while Eurostar floundered, their representative swung into action, booking me a hotel for the night.

I dropped off my bag by 11.30pm and walked across the road to a late-night bar.

I saw families with huge bags and small kids spilling out of the Eurostar terminal, trudging down the Euston Road to find hotels. They looked ashen.

I thanked my lucky stars my two daughters were tucked up safely in bed at home and steadied my nerves with a pint of Guinness.

Learning points

So what do we take away from this sorry scenario?

Of course, force-majeure events happen to anyone who travels regularly and it was simply my turn (again, after the ash cloud).

But why is Eurostar not learning from its mistakes. Surely it could have avoided yet another PR disaster?

For me, the lesson is clear: book tickets through a specialist operator or agent, not Eurostar direct.

The former are the ones to keep their heads while all around are loosing theirs.

And that matters.

2 Comments

Filed under Tourism, Travel writing, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Eurostar is on the wrong track – again

  1. Maria

    I was on that train too and found it interesting that at no point did we know what the delay was truly about until we were reboarded onto the second train going back to London. After that train started moving, the train manager came on and apologized to the newly boarded passengers for the inconvenience of going back to London due to “the suicide.” That was confirmation of the rumors that we had heard, among many others, but gave me the impression that the cause for delay was common knowledge amongst the Eurostar personnel but kept from the passengers for whatever reason.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I agree. The lack of information was the key issue.

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