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Friday 12 February 2010

What A Star! (2)

Back in December, I noted that Eurostar had not exactly covered themselves in glory after several trains failed inside the Channel Tunnel. Thousands of passengers were badly delayed, and on one train, the on-board staff appeared to be so out of their depth that off-duty police officers had to step in to maintain order.

Now, an independent review set up in the wake of the fiasco has reported. And that report will not make comfortable reading for Eurostar management. For starters, the operator’s maintenance procedures seemingly did not pick up on the ingress of snow into the rear power cars of the trains while on their journeys towards the Tunnel from France and Belgium. That snow, once the trains entered the comparatively warm Tunnel, melted and disabled enough of the trains’ electrics to stop them.

Once the trains had failed, the provision of information to passengers was inadequate. The report has stressed that timely provision of information is essential, especially where there are significant delays. And that information has to be consistent: some of that given out by Eurostar staff was contradictory.

Finally, there was apparently no plan in place to extract the failed trains from the Tunnel, or to evacuate the trains and their passengers. Two Eurotunnel locomotives sent to “drag” one of the failed Eurostars out of the Tunnel were then commandeered to take the train on to London, leaving the remainder of the failures in place.

Eurostar management has been making suitably apologetic noises, as well it might, but the thought enters that they, and their operation, came up short and displayed themselves to be not fit for purpose. One more strike and they’re out.

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