And the prize for most unreliable means of travel goes to… Eurostar!

Warning: rant alert! This rant is not about being stuck because of severe weather conditions (even though it’s hard to understand why some Eurostar trains are running and others aren’t). This rant is about Eurostar communicating with their customers.

I’m sorry… This is extremely off topic but as I was in a similar exactly the same situation just a year ago I felt like I had to blog about it to document this. Eurostar used to be the one of the most reliable ways to travel from Brussels to London but I haven’t had much luck lately. Delays and rude staff are seemingly more than normal these days.

When I arrived in London on Monday we were already delayed for half an hour. Delayed because of… snow? Hmm… I wonder how they travel in the icy North. Surely they have trains as well, no? Anyway… I was already thinking about the train ride back home on Thursday. And yes… I just returned from dinner and found an email from Eurostar in my mailbox.

Due to the weather conditions in the UK and Northern France, we are running a revised timetable on Thursday 2 December.

We are advising customers to postpone and rearrange their journeys. For those customers who decide not travel they can either exchange or refund their ticket within 60 days for travel within 90 days through their original point of sale.

More detailed information is available on www.eurostar.com

Oh wow… That email surely says a lot, doesn’t it? Can I still get home? What is that revised timetable? Wouldn’t it be easier to say “Hey, we saw that you’re booked on this train. We rebooked you on that train”?

The Eurostar homepage says almost the exact same thing.

Due to the current weather conditions, Eurostar will be operating a significantly reduced timetable on Thursday 2 December, with a number of cancellations. In addition, Eurostar services will be subject to delays of up to 90 minutes.

So now I still don’t know whether or not I can get home. After 2 more clicks I finally find out that my train is canceled. Ok… So now what?

Customers wishing to travel are advised to turn up at the station for their original booked train and they will be accommodated on the next available service. For travellers booked on a late evening services that has been cancelled, you are advised to turn up after 12:00. We will try to allocate seating on another service as per the revised timetable. Please note however that very limited capacity will be available and therefore if you are able to postpone or cancel your journey we strongly advise you to do so.

Right… So apparently I’m supposed to go to the train station at noon to see if they can put me on a train in the afternoon or not. Ok… So… Message to my manager: I won’t be able to present at Flash Camp London tomorrow ’cause I have to stand in line at the train station in order to hear if I can get home or not. Ehm… Yeah… I don’t think so…!

This seems to be somewhat of a crisis situation (half of their trains are cancelled) so I thought I would ring up the Eurostar customer service to see what I am supposed to do… “Welcome to the Eurostar customer service line. We are currently closed…”.

I find this absolutely unbelievable. It seems that Eurostar hasn’t learned anything from last year’s disaster. Communication is so important in these kinds of situations and Eurostar is failing miserably. I’ll try and call them again first thing tomorrow morning but you already see where this is going, can’t you? I can already see the crowds at the train station with people who are trying to find out more and see if they can still travel. Exactly the same as a year ago… Great job, Eurostar!

Update: And it’s already happening. This is a picture from St Pancras station earlier today posted by Ben Miller on Twitter.

And this one from Rob de Main also speaks a thousand words… In fact… There are lots of people Tweeting about Eurostar and the lack of communication.

I’ll keep you posted…

Update December 2nd – 7:15am GMT: Back home in Belgium it is now 8:15am. I just called the Eurostar support desk. I got an automated message saying that “they are closed right now and are open from 8am till 5pm”. Another fail.

Just found an interesting question on Twitter: “Why cancel the odd train here and there? Surely if some can run, they can all run…”. Wouldn’t they just be able to start earlier and end later and get everyone home?

7:30am GMT: It is now 8:30am in Belgium. The Eurostar support line is still closed. This is an absolute disgrace.

7:45am GMT: I’m beginning to sound like a broken record. It is now 8:45am in Belgium. The support line is still closed even though their site and the automated message say that they are open from 8am. I have a feeling that I know what they are waiting for. They are waiting for the UK support line to open up in 15 minutes. The Belgian support probably doesn’t know anything until they open. Same story as last year…

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