In the pre-Christmas rush to reach loved ones, we’re not having a lot of success here in the UK. A bit of snow has sent everything into chaos – flights have been cancelled or delayed, roads closed, warnings to stay at home issued, and trains stranded mid-line. The snow has also caused Eurostar to restrict the speed of trains on both sides of the Channel, adding at least two hours to journey times, with the knock-on effect of a great many train cancellations.
And so, Monsieur and I have been watching developments with interest, as we wonder whether or not we’ll reach our French famille for Christmas. With queues like the one in the film below, we expect it to be quite hard work. Since the chaos ensued on Monday, tempers have frayed, Eurostar staff have reportedly been rude and unhelpful (not the best P.R. at a time like this, Eurostar!), and it’s only through the goodness of the Salvation Army that people queuing in freezing conditions for hours on end have been fed and watered. Some poor folk have suffered hypothermia, St John’s Ambulance has therefore been on hand to treat the effects of standing for long periods in sub-zero temperatures, and if all that weren’t bad enough, yesterday the transport police were called to deal with travellers who’d had enough of being mucked around in what we’d all call the most amateur of company responses to their many thousands of stranded customers.
What is it about snow that we don’t seem able to deal with here?
And what is it about so-called customer service that allows so many thousands of travellers to be treated with such lack of care or respect when all they’re trying to do is get home for the holidays?
Eurostar has had no clear plan of action this week apart from cancelling services, cancelling pre-Christmas ticket sales and telling ticket-holders that they’d be dealt with on a first-come, first-serve basis. For simply OBVIOUS reasons, that was a big, fat FAIL, (a case of early bird with the pushiest elbows catches the worm) so today they’ve decided to try honouring tickets and getting their customers onto the next available train. Estimated waiting time? It still stands at a horrendous 3+ hours. I’ll be interested to see what happens when we try to travel. Will we make it or won’t we? The suspense is killing me. (Not really. The cold outside St Pancras will probably take care of that).
From what’s been said, things aren’t much better in the freezing cold station that is the Gare du Nord. Angry travellers + Gallic policemen do not make for a happy mix. Add a few truncheons and the picture becomes very, very messy, indeed. In fact, at the rate they’re going, Eurostar will be subjected to annual pre-Christmas service failure enquiries. Remember this time last year? I’ll give you a clue: trains. Stuck. Under the Channel. Services cancelled. As our friends in France would say: plus ça change. With that, here endeth the second Eurostar ranting.
Monsieur and I are certainly having some pre-Christmas issues. First, we couldn’t make it to celebrate early Christmas with my parents because of the snow over the weekend. Conditions were too hazardous to drive. But wait, says Epic, let’s take the train! What train? All those going along our desired route were either cancelled or severely delayed or ran the risk of getting stuck between stations. Preferring not to freeze in transit, we turned up the fire and stayed at home.
Now we’re supposed to go to France for French Christmas, but low-flying pigs are looking more likely to appear in our pre-Christmas future. Check out these pictures of London St Pancras terminal today, courtesy of Sky.com:
And this is the latest official comment from Eurostar:
Due to the continuing bad weather, speed restrictions are in place on our high speed lines, adding up to two hours to journey times. As a result we cannot operate as many trains as planned.
Therefore we are asking all customers booked to travel before Christmas to refund or exchange their tickets free of charge, if their travel is not essential.
If you hold a booking leaving London St Pancras or Paris Nord today and are not already at the station, please do not travel to the station as unfortunately we are not able to accept any more passengers for travel today. If your travel is essential, seats will be allocated to you on trains tomorrow (please see the link below).
Thank you for your patience.
Oh, joy. This week is going to be a mission, especially with more snow on its way. Sadly, there’s nothing anyone can do about this crazy weather. It’s not like we can switch it off, or anything.
So, just in case I get stuck in the Channel Tunnel at some point during this super-snowy time and do not reappear for a while, Merry Christmas and may 2011 bring everything you hope for.