Representatives of EPF members from Belgium, the Netherlands, UK and France – countries served by Eurostar – met with Gareth Williams, Eurostar’s General Secretary & Chief Strategic Partnerships Officer, and several of his colleagues mid-January for an annual meeting. EPF and Eurostar exchanged on various topics, such as investments in new hubs and infrastructure, as well as through ticketing and timetables.

Also discussed during the meeting were two incidents that heavily affected Eurostar operations between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The first one, an industrial action started by Getlink’s employees, rapidly found a solution with a compromise between Management and trade unions on an extra bonus to be paid to the workforce. However, the second one, the flooding of the Ebbsfleet Tunnel near London on December 29., was far more serious. Some 40 trains were cancelled, resulting in more than 30.000 passengers stranded in Amsterdam, Brussels, London and Paris.

According to Eurostar, passenger rights were implemented according to the Rail Passenger Rights’ Regulation, adding that also passengers who re-routed by ferry were reimbursed. On the other hand, as reported by the French and Belgian national media and by our national EPF members from those countries, a large amount of passengers felt lost and were left with no real-time information (only receiving a minimal message on their mobile phone that their train was cancelled) and obliged to organise their re-routing and/or accommodation arrangements by themselves, instead of being offered assistance by the operator (as obliged by law).

Whereas Eurostar told EPF during the meeting that it has in place contingency plans to deal with such severe disruptions, it became clear in the Christmas period that an evaluation is necessary to ensure that passengers on one of the most frequented European rail links are properly assisted in case things go wrong in the future. For example, Eurostar’s website would have deserved a new tab or page specifically dedicated to helping affected passengers.

EPF and EPF members will closely monitor operational decisions made by Eurostar in case of disruptions. Passengers are asked to send in their experiences towards their national representatives of EPF. Eurostar and EPF confirmed that their annual meetings have an added value to passengers and will continue to take place in future.