Back in December, in my post Tigger goes to Sheffield; I stay at home, I mentioned, more or less in passing, the disruption to Eurostar’s services and the long queues waiting at St Pancras.
I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to receive an email from someone I suppose I might describe as a Eurostar official, referring to my post and inviting me to view Eurostar’s response to the Independent Enquiry set up to review last December’s events and make recommendations.
This was flattering but, in a sense, the writer saw the mote and missed the beam, the latter being my much more direct experience of disrupted Eurostar services in Paris in September 2008, recorded in my page, Paris 2008. What I criticized then was the lack of preparedness of Eurostar staff to deal with a major event and the lack of adequate mechanisms for keeping passengers informed of the state of play. From what I have read, similar problems manifested themselves again last December.
The Response, which you will find here, does mention poor communication as one of the problems experienced and proposes measures to improve matters. The email tells me that Eurostar is, above all, focused on
- Improving passenger care in disruption
- Improving communications, and
- Strengthening the resilience of our trains
The email invited me to pass on any thoughts and I did so. One of these was that I see Eurostar as a very important service in a world that is tackling global warming and seeking to clean up the environment. I believe that high-speed rail travel should replace air travel, at least within Europe.
Thus, failures of the Eurostar service as experienced in December are very worrying. Not only do they disrupt the plans of hundreds of passengers but they also cast a shadow over the whole concept of fast rail travel and cause a loss of confidence in it. Winning passengers back is then likely to be an uphill struggle.
At its best, Eurostar is a fine service. I remember with pleasure the trips we have taken on it and I hope to enjoy many more. The optimistic words of the Response are all very well – all companies issue statements like this after the event – but what counts is whether or not Eurostar delivers on its promises. If Eurostar does so, then it will have my wholehearted approval.
Perhaps you would like to read the Response for yourself and see what you think.