Screen shot 2009-12-19 at 08.12.26

Last night at 2202 a newsletter arrived in my inbox entitled ‘Europe: the ideal Christmas gift’, urging me to offer friends and family a trip on Eurostar.

At the same time Eurostar knew a difficult situation was developing on its services – BBC reported on it at 0400 this morning. When temperatures are very cold either side of the tunnel, Eurostar hits problems. The temperature difference means that trains break down when leaving or entering the tunnel because the air in the tunnel is much warmer than the air on the outside.

Screen shot 2009-12-19 at 08.21.11Eurostar has my e-mail address (they can e-mail me marketing crap), and they also have my UK mobile number. Did they make any effort to contact me to inform me my train would be more than 4 hours delayed, if I even manage to get to London today? No, of course they didn’t. They just put a small message on their website – responsibility on the passengers to check what’s going on.

This is all especially frustrating as I’m supposed to be at the wedding of some friends in London today… I’ll miss the service and probably also the lunch, and if I’m lucky might manage to join them for a drink at the reception, probably by that time angry and disheveled having spent half the morning in the Eurostar terminal.

Beyond all of that I’m also angry at myself. I’m a railway geek, have heard of the Eurostar problems with the cold in the past, and if I had checked online yesterday might have managed to travel overnight by bus instead… The personal frustration of not having checked is very much compounded by Eurostar’s communications failure.

UPDATE – 1110 CET
hash-eurostarAn ad-hoc support network for stranded passengers has been formed via the #eurostar hashtag on Twitter. @johnandreas is at St Pancras, @cjtrigg is trying to get to Lille, and I (@jonworth) am stuck in Brussels where there is still no guarantee of a 1200 departure to London. I’ll post any news from Gare du Midi there.

In the meantime I’ve also checked the official Eurostar Twitter Account, and Facebook Fan Page – no news whatsoever there about the problems. Part of the idea with engagement in social media is honesty and that seems to rather lacking at both of those locations.

3 Comments

  1. Hey, if you’re also a Eurostar Client I’ll add you to the link list.

  2. Hi Daniele,

    I think you’re quite accurate on that. There have been tensions for a while between Eurotunnel and Eurostar, even – you might argue – from the very start. I don’t recall the details, but there’s some odd financing arrangement between the two, where Eurostar pays per passenger on its trains to Eurotunnel, not per train, and hence this has meant Eurostar has not been able to build the business model it wanted (or something along those lines).

    The issue of the rescue locomotives is also quite interesting – Eurotunnel has 5 of them, and Eurostar none. So that’s clearly Eurotunnel’s business. But then what happens if a Eurostar breaks down on a UK HSL? See this – they have no rescue locomotives at all for the UK any longer…

    All of this strikes me as if Eurostar has been just thinking in terms of its bottom line, assuming times will always be good…

    Overall though – interested to see your experience on your site about Eurostar. My situation is rather similar – I’m British, resident in Brussels, with loads of clients in London. I’ve done perhaps 70 return journeys with Eurostar, and until the end of October this year my biggest delay had been 30 minutes. In November I was twice delayed an hour (signalling at Fréthun), and now this…

  3. Jon –

    aside from technical issues which will be investigated, what do you think has caused such a communication failure both during the emergency (inside) and after (recovery)?
    My latest thoughts: http://eurostarclient.com/2009/12/20/eurostar-communication-failure-causes/ but it’s just my speculation.

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