On Tuesday this week I was on Eurostar 9161, the 1952 departure from Bruxelles Midi to London St Pancras, with stops in Lille Europe, Calais Fréthun and Ebbsfleet. Shortly after departure from Lille the train manager made an announcement, telling us that a control of tickets and identity papers would be made between Lille and Calais.
Two youngish, surly French men passed through the train, one wearing a working man’s sweater and boots, the other with a bomber jacket with US baseball insignia on it, each of them with little, fluorescent Eurostar armbands. One asked me to see my ticket.
“What’s the reason for this control?” I asked him in French, as he looked at my ticket and showed no interest in my passport. “It’s just to check the tickets, to see that people have tickets, to see if they are sitting in the correct carriage.” I told him I had moved from the neighbouring carriage, and despite the fact I had an odd DB ticket, he was fine with it and off he went.
Notably this control was not the same as the rail police control from a few weeks ago. I still do not understand its purpose though, not least because my ticket was stamped by the UK Borders control in Bruxelles, and my ticket and passport were checked in London too (the Lille loophole checks). Why do a second level of these checks in the train as well – if that’s what this check was for? There were also 4 civilian security personnel on the platform at Calais, kitted out in bright orange jackets, but notably these were civilian security guards – were they something to do with it too? In the past there have sometimes been armed military present at Calais.
What is going on with all of this?